>barefoot in the park by singapore repertory theatre

>reviewed by daniel teo

>date: 3 nov 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: dbs arts centre
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


There's nothing like a good Neil Simon play in this time of crisis.

With world peace going out the window and the world economy going crazy, it's all good in the theatre world of boy-meets-girl-and-you-know-the-rest. Now with even the Emmy's going solemn and boring, you need a lot to generate a laugh or two.

And in the world of newly wedded Paul and Corie, it is all hunky dory six days into their marriage - that is before he finds out about the hole in the skylight, the exorbitant rates for the cramped apartment and the terror of climbing six flights of stairs everyday. Add in a delusional neighbour and a clingy mother-in-law... you can see where all this is leading to.

Oh, let's not forget that he's also an anal retentive "stuffed shirt" while Corie is the Mary Poppins sing-song free spirit. Yes, it's all very 'Dharma and Greg' but lead actors Adrian Pang and Anne Marie Falvey thankfully brought life into their stock sitcom characters and predictable situations (haven't you seen all the possible permutations of break-ups and reunions in 'Friends'?).

Indeed when the two were on stage, the play was at its best as the energy gained momentum with their one-liners bouncing off each other. The chemistry between them made sure that the lines had meaning beyond being merely funny and their responses were more than just witticisms. Adrian Pang was especially a joy to watch with his effortlessly hilarious physical comedy - he made it seem so easy! With his firm grasp of his character, he really made the play work in the second and third acts, making the transition between stodgy Paul and trying-to-be spontaneous Paul so seamless and believable. It was no mean feat that as the straight foil he was even funnier than his hysterical partner.

>>'It was no mean feat that as the straight foil Pang was even funnier than his hysterical partner. '

Anne Marie Falvey kept the energy level high with her silly antics and it is to her credit that her Corie didn't end up looking like some juvenile sixteen-year-old in comparison to Paul. She made her character's bright-eyed optimism endearing instead of obnoxious as it could well have been.

Drawing their energy from a cleverly designed set that made use of the varying degrees of the theatre's dimensions, the play had punch whenever the couple held court on stage. However the pacing of the play tripped over itself sporadically as other character transitions were bumpy and somewhat distracting.

Sandy Phillips as the mother-in-law and Jayant Kripalani as the neighbour were fine with their individual characters but put together in an opposites-attract situation, the negotiation of their characters seemed contrived and needed more time and space to work out. Similarly Corie's realisation of her intrinsic differences from Paul was another bumpy ride as the audience wondered what the correct response was, the comedy in the tragedy struggling to find its place and vice versa.

All this added to a staleness which resurfaced sporadically throughout the night as actors tried to make Neil Simon's formulaic lines work - after the 2004th time, jokes about the six flights of stairs weren't all that funny anymore. We all know what's going to happen but how they make it happen, that's the magic.

The night really came alive when the lines came fast and furious as emotions oscillated wildly with the rhythm of the rebuttals. Taken in all at once, this Neil Simon soufflé was warm, comfortably fluffy and familiar to the stomach.

Just don't let the wait between the bites deter you from enjoying it all.