Neil Simon, the Most Successful Playwright in The History of Theatre
"It can be argued that Neil Simon is not only America's most successful playwright, but also the most successful playwright in the history of theatre."1 Despite being criticized for lack of substance, his hugely successful comedies are consistently revived, whether on Broadway or in other community or dinner theatres. Last week the University of Notre Dame's Mainstage season opened with the departmental premiere of Barefoot in the Park. Though the play originally opened more then thirty years ago, the themes of compatibility and compromise that it presents are still relevant today. Simon masterfully manipulated the plot of Barefoot in the Park to include all of the elements of a fine play (intrigue, credibility, surprise, etc.) and to create a viable playscript that both emphasizes the play's major themes and, just as importantly, makes the audience laugh.
Simon has skillfully constructed the plot of Barefoot in the Park to showcase and emphasize his themes of compatibility and need for compromise. The plot itself starts out fairly simple. In the first act, Paul and Corie Bratter, wed but six days, move into their new apartment on the top floor of a brownstone in New York City. From the very first, the audience can see that these are two very different characters that have very different values, and yet Paul and Corie are very much in love. The plot progresses as other characters are introduced. First to visit the newlyweds is Corie's mother, Mrs. Banks. The relationship between Corie and her mother also involves a clash of very distinct personalities. With the appearance of the Bratter's eccentric upstairs neighbor, Victor Velasco, Corie sees the opportunity to play matchmaker and inject a little romance into her staid mother's life. The first act concludes with Corie's plan to bring the two together at an upcoming dinner party, much to the chagrin of her husband Paul....
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