It takes two to tango

Feb 15, 2018, 08:25 IST | Shunashir Sen

Watch an adaptation of a Neil Simon play that offers a comic take on relationship problems

The cast of Barefoot in the Park
The cast of Barefoot in the Park

Anyone who enters the institution of marriage thinking that the entire journey will be a bed of roses is in for a serious reality check. For, it needs to be taken for granted that stormy domestic differences will sometimes pour cold water on the warm glow of conjugal bliss. And unless a couple learns to resolve niggling internal conflicts, they are in for as bumpy a ride as that of driver on a potholed road in Mumbai right after the rains.

Ask Swagata Naik, and she'll tell you the same. The first-time director is about to stage her adaptation of American playwright Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park. It's centred on a newly married couple who have just moved into a cramped New York apartment. The two people signed on the dotted line of domesticity with stars in their eyes. But soon, grey clouds loom above because they are weighed down by the burden of their own expectations. The wife is a free spirit, who approaches life with gay abandon. But, she feels stifled by her staid husband, who refuses to let his hair down.

Sankalp Joshi and Priyanka Lulla in a scene from the play
Sankalp Joshi and Priyanka Lulla in a scene from the play

This leads to inevitable squabbles, with a motley crew of supporting characters throwing their two pence in. And the process through which the couple learns to accept each other, warts and all, forms the basis of this romantic comedy.

Naik tells us, "I think conflict is absolutely necessary in a relationship. Any couple that says there shouldn't be any of it is depriving themselves of a chance to become better, because conflict helps you discover things about yourself as well as the other person. And that's essential for people to evolve as human beings."

Swagata Naik
Swagata Naik

She adds that the fact that the two central characters — Corie and Palash — live in a cramped apartment adds a different dimension to their complications. "Giving each other space is an essential part of any relationship. And you need to learn how to do that even if you are living in a tiny flat, because a couple must be able to lie down next to each other on a bed and still be in different rooms. Also, issues of space can arise whether you're living in a cramped apartment or in a mansion, because it's not about the physical structure but the mindsets of the two people," Naik says.

So in the end, Barefoot in the Park remains a play that questions the rosy picture that people with blinkers on paint about married life in general. "The thing is, we never see marriage as something that helps us grow. Even with these two central characters, they entered their relationship thinking that it will be a fairy tale. But they gradually understand that it's not going to be as easy as that. And in the process, they discover things that they didn't know about each other, but which they also realise that they like about each other. It's something that happens to all of us, and it's a beautiful thing, don't you think?" Naik asks us, the question being rhetorical, because the answer to it is an obvious "yes".

ON: February 16, 17 and 18, 8 pm
AT: The Jeff Goldberg Studio, Khar West.
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