Reading for the Day: Oh Cruel, Cruel World!

For the past few days, self has been immersed in reading a March 2008 Vanity Fair article on the director of “The Graduate,” Mike Nichols.

And here are a few of the things she has gleaned from the article thus far:

  • Mike Nichols got his start as a comedian.
  • He took pre-med at the University of Chicago (undoubtedly, a brain)
  • At 33, he directed Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley in the Broadway smash, “Barefoot in the Park.”

The above nugget leads self to google “Barefoot in the Park.” And lands her on this doozy of a review by The New York Times’ Ben Brantley, on a revival of aforementioned play, with Amanda Peet and Patrick Wilson playing the Elizabeth Ashley/ Robert Redford roles. This production apparently opened in 2006 and probably closed shortly after, as self doesn’t think anything could survive a review like the following. Self is quoting from the beginning of the article:

THE mistakes begin with the wallpaper. When the curtain rises on the torturous new revival of Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” the play’s eager newlywed heroine (portrayed by Amanda Peet) is discovered applying, with laborious comic inefficiency, hypnotically striped paper to the walls of her first apartment. Not to put a damper on a young bride’s early adventures in decorating, but instead of gluing on wallpaper, shouldn’t she be slapping on paint? Then at least the audience would have the diversion of watching it dry.

OUCH!

Certainly, theatergoers deserve some form of incidental relief from the parching desert of a production that opened last night at the Cort Theater. Mr. Simon’s 1963 comedy, his first Broadway smash, was a valentine to his wife Joan and to the joyful tribulations of being young, untried and uninhibited in the big city. Yet for a work that celebrates the liberating force of spontaneity, this version doesn’t have one scene that feels organic, let alone impromptu.

The quip-packed dialogue that is Mr. Simon’s signature registers here with the animation and full-bodiedness of projected supertitles. As the current Broadway revival of “The Odd Couple” indicates, early Neil Simon retains its original freshness about as well as sushi. But as miscast and uneasy as this season’s “Odd Couple” is, it at least has the momentum that comes from honoring the Ping-Pong rhythms of bouncing zingers. “Barefoot” progresses with the stiff-legged, robotic gait of Boris Karloff as the Mummy.

Ouch, Ouch, triple OUCH!

Stop, Ben, STOP! You’re killing me!!

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