"Glow" star Chris Lowell, known for his work in film and television, was itching to do a play when he stumbled upon the perfect opportunity: Neil Simon's classic play "Barefoot in the Park" at The Old Globe.
When he read the script for the first time, Lowell said, he immediately felt a connection to Paul, a young newlywed moving into a New York City apartment with his new wife, free-spirited Corie.
Lowell, known for his work in "Veronica Mars," "Up in the Air" and "The Help," most notably, said he could picture it: the play, the character, the setting, all of it. Simon's play, which premiered in the 60s on Broadway, follows that young couple through the first part of their marriage.
"When I read the script, I felt the words coming out of my mouth very naturally, which is always a good sign, I think," he explained. "Especially when those word are things like, 'for Pete's sake,' or, 'boy oh boy,' things that I would never think I would be able to say with a straight face."
He has other similarities to his Type-A character, he says: he's a bit of a perfectionist, like Paul; he gets derailed easily when there's a slight deviation from a plan.
When Lowell first moved to New York City, he also lived in a five-story walk up in Manhattan. In that way, he understands his character's journey.
"I know how hard people breathe when they get into the front door, and the look they give you, like they want you to f---- die, for having made them walk up those stairs," Lowell said. "And I know what it's like to have crazy neighbors that you have to come to terms with, and compromise with, and there's something that still feels, as a New Yorker, very very accurate."
One of the reasons Lowell wanted to take on this play was because he liked Paul's journey in the play, and the lesson he learns: how to compromise and get along with people who may not be exactly like them. It's a lesson he says "everybody could use right now."
"I just love where this character starts, which is someone who has a panic attack because there's no bathtub, and where this character ends, which is drunk on top of a ledge," Lowell said. "It's fun to figure out how to get from A to B."
When he first started rehearsals, Lowell said, he started off Act One with lots of dry, deadpan lines. The lines would be funny at that moment, he explained, but would leave no room for the character to grow.
Director Jessica Stone encouraged Lowell to start from a different place. Adjusting his expectations for the character was a challenge for him throughout the process, he said.
"If he's just grumpy, beginning to end, that's not very three dimensional," Lowell said. "Whereas if he can be nervous but optimistic in the first act, then slowly that optimism gets chipped away at, so by the third act, he's become this lunatic. That is a much more fulfilling journey not just for the audience, but for me as well."
Much of the comedy in "Barefoot" comes from situational comedy, Lowell explained, and in turn, it's a comedy that has aged well over time.
"The situation is all you need in order for the comedy to exist, and that doesn't lock you into jokes that feel immediately dated or a style of comedy that feels immediately dated," Lowell said. "This has such a timelessness to it."
The added twist: the play will be performed in The Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, a space with seats all around the stage.
The play, which opened on Broadway in 1963, starred Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley. The romantic comedy later became a movie. It's a history that Lowell doesn't take lightly.
"It's intimidating and scary and fun and bizarre to be in a room where people are talking about how Robert Redford did it, and what Mike Nicholas thought was the best way to approach this scene," Lowell said. "That's such a cool thing to suddenly be involved with."
Now, decades later as the play opens at The Old Globe, Lowell hopes theatergoers can come to the theater and check their baggage at the door.
"Right now, things are so hot in the world, and it's nice to be able to get away from that, and just laugh," Lowell said. "I think it's really important for people to take a deep breath, take a weight off their shoulders, sit down, and have a really fun time."
"Barefoot" is such an energetic piece of theater with so much humanity and comedy, Lowell said. He hopes many San Diegans come to see it.
"I just can't wait for people to see it," Lowell said. "I think it's going to be exactly the kind of theater people want to come to."