Review: Opposites Attract

PatDowdellOpposites Attractby Pat Dowdell

Matt McNabb's sixth directorial production is also his sixth hit show!  Quite an accomplishment for any director, but he has done it again.  On opening night, Barefoot in the Park received a standing ovation from a crowd that were kept laughing and engrossed in this adult comedy throughout the three act, two intermission production.

Barefoot in the Park takes place in the 1960's, my personal "coming of age" decade.   The stage design reminded me of the bygone era of princess phones, knee high socks, pill box hats, percolator coffee pots and beaded doorways.  By the little chuckles heard from the audience, many of them were reminded of that era, too. Even the lines, "Arthur Murray Dance Studio" and "Bossa Nova" emitted "ahs" from others in the audience who lived through that time as well.

Barefoot is a highly energetic and physically demanding play, performed by six actors with perfect timing.  The four main characters form a unique mix of seasoned and well accomplished talent:  two of them are real life husband and wife while the other two bring their skill to Lyric Arts for their debut performances.  It was comical watching the clash of conservative vs. liberal personalities. There were no dull moments from start to finish as the pace kept the audience listening , laughing and wanting more.

Lying under the obvious humor of the show, Barefoot in the Park has another layer. Through humor and some touching moments, it shows the coming together of different lives and lifestyles and the conflicts that can happen when opposites attract.  Clearly, the play makes the argument that if we can break through our personal paradigms of how life should be and embrace the idea that, through love, change can be a wonderful thing, we ultimately can find more joy in our lives.

As the director said in the playbill, "I also saw a little of myself in each of the characters."  I'm a bit stunned by pieces of that revelation, but am opened to it more than ever.  That is the greatest compliment I can give to Neil Simon's insight when he wrote this play.  Change doesn't have to hurt if it begins with acceptance.  Everything becomes easier after that.

A Little Bit About Pat: Pat is a native Anoka resident and a recently retired teacher.  Pat taught at Anoka High School for 25 years.  In her spare time, Pat volunteers at Lyric Arts doing a variety of jobs.