The Odd Couple: Felix and Oscar still at it

The Odd Couple
By Neil Simon
Performed by Jonathan Ellul as Oscar and Mark Weatherley as Felix, et al.
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
June 12 to 30, 2013

If you have fond memories of the old TV show with the inimitable Tony Randall as Felix Unger and Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison, then you’ll enjoy this play on which the show was based. The TV show exploited the volatile relationship between the neat freak and the slob, and the yelling that ensued. That atmosphere has been successfully captured in the production of The Odd Couple now on stage at Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia.

Neil Simon is a comedy genius. He has created many characters that have left their mark, such as Oscar and Felix. The Odd Couple grew from a play, to a movie, a long-running TV show, an animated series, a female version of The Odd Couple and an Odd Couple update. Simon, now 85 years old and well-respected in the business, is the first playwright to have a Broadway theatre named after him while he is still alive. He has written more than 30 comedy plays, which have been made into just as many movies.

Thirty years ago, I found his stories hilariously funny. But somehow, I don’t feel The Odd Couple has withstood the test of time. The idea of two divorced guys living together is not as far-fetched as it was when it was first on Broadway in 1965. Simon’s comedies have too much anger and yelling, with situations that just aren’t quite as funny anymore.

Fortunately, The Odd Couple is saved by the zingers, and this is the best that one could do with the 1965 script. Credit goes to director Linda Kash for putting together a very talented cast to make the old plot come alive.  

Jonathan Ellul as the sloppy Oscar and Mark Weatherley as the fastidious Felix both handle the roles well. Both have hilarious facial expressions that capture the humour. But since the show is created around the conflict between these polar opposites, there is plenty of yelling that at times grows tiresome. Reining in the angry voices and quietly delivering zingers might have been more effective.  
In fact, much of the laughter comes from the witty one-liners. Oscar says, “The maid quit. After my wife and kids moved out, it got to be too much work.” Later he complains when Felix leaves him a note “We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.” Oscar says it took him awhile to realize that F.U. stood for Felix Unger.  

The show opens with the poker players who are all funny caricatures. Murray (Kevin Kruckywich) eats pickles and pasta off the floor. Speed (Pat Masurkevitch) is especially annoyed by delays in the poker game. Vinnie (J. Sean Elliott) and Roy (Scott Robert Fink) whine about the game’s progress.  

In Act II, the Pigeon sisters are delightful breath of fresh air. After all the fighting, they create a break in the yelling. Rachel Jones as Cecily and Sara-Jeanne Hosie as Gwendolyn are excellent comedic actors creating many laugh-out-loud moments.  

A special addition to the VPP version is the fun between scenes, as the actors clean with feather dusters, and dance their way around as they re-set the stage. A favourite is the special table setting:  I won’t reveal the outcome here – you have to see it to believe it. The famous song “Sisters” from White Christmas is played for the Pigeons between scenes.  

So if the conflict could be delivered with a little less yelling, The Odd Couple would be much more enjoyable. A war of words without the constant shouting would be more effective.  Nevertheless, it’s fun nostalgia trip back to the old TV show.  
 
The Odd Couple continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until June 30.  Call the box office at or for tickets or visit www.thevpp.ca

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A member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, Mary Alderson reviews shows at area theatres and posts blogs at www.entertainthisthought.com . 

 

 


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