While Neil Simon was busy writing for Sid Caesar’s TV show, “Your Show of Shows,” he took out a bit of time to bring forth his first hit play, “Come Blow Your Horn.”
Luckily for the playwright and the world’s theatre-going population, the show proved a great success, as did his second venture, “Barefoot in the Park.”
However, Simon’s third show not only was a hit but has survived almost 50 years to become one of the prolific writer’s most famous and best loved theatre moments.
“The Odd Couple” is just as simple and hilariously funny today as it was when first staged in 1965.
For those few who may be unfamiliar with this little gem of comedy, it goes like this: Oscar is a slob par excellence; his friend Felix demands a world of perfection and cleanliness. The two are joined by four buddies who have a standing Saturday night poker game. When Felix is late for the game one week, it is discovered that his wife has had it with is squeaky-cleanliness and sent him packing – straight to Oscar’s pig sty! Being such a pal, Oscar offers Felix the sanctuary of his eight-room NY City apartment but lives to regret it
The Lakewood Playhouse production is no exception to the play’s success.
Steve Tarry, who is better known locally for his acting prowess, can add admirable director to his resume.
The set by John Munn, costumes by Cyndi Hjembo, lighting by Daniel Cole and sound by John Burton all work but take a giant back seat to the story of funny words.
The freshness of the beloved slob Oscar Madison juxtaposed next to Felix Unger, the world’s greatest neatnik, professes to Simon’s wordsmithing genius and makes the show one one-liner after another, bringing the audience to near constant peals of laughter.
Tarry’s cast has honed their lines to bring out the funniest possible interpretation and delivery; they have developed their characters with the same alacrity.
Kadi Burt is Cecily Pigeon and Palmer Scheutzow is her sister Gwendolyn. This flight of birds is Oscar’s chirping upstairs neighbors. They explode on stage with charm and desire oozing from every feather, completely intimidating Felix and supporting him with maternal love. It would be hard to say that Burt is better than Scheutzow or vice versa – the two are so alike in style and voice they become a delightful flighty pair – and, in a word, what a hoot!
Martin Goldsmith as Vinnie is very funny and quite good as one of the poker buddies.
Gabriel McClelland is equally humorous and stoic as Speed, the number 2 poker pal.
Joseph Grant is Roy, the most calm (at times) of the card players; he underplays his lines beautifully, making them even more comical.
Jed Slaughter is Murray, the cop, who completes the gambling sextet. Slaughter’s characterization is terrific. He has given Murray some sort of sinus problem so he holds his mouth open all the time, looking like a questioning simpleton – very good character and delivery.
Jim Rogers is Felix Unger – poor, woeful Felix – the whole world is against him and Rogers is certain that is a fact and he makes the audience believe him and feel for him – until he starts vacuuming the ashtrays and complaining about his ruined London Broil – then there isn’t one audience member who wouldn’t feel justified in kicking him upstairs to the birdbrains!
Christopher S. Cantrell plays a sloven Oscar Madison perfectly from his acceptance of his “hazard to your health” apartment to his “brown or green” sandwiches. Cantrell can’t help but be a gas! His line delivery is right on, his manner is carefully contrived carelessness; a really good job.
“The Odd Couple” continues atThe Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, next to the Pierce Transit Depot, through May 11, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There is a Pay-What-You-Can night scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, April 24 and an Actor’s Benefit performance at the same time Thursday, May 1.
For reservations or more information, call the box office at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
Come see “The Odd Couple” at Lakewood Playhouse prepared to laugh. How could you not roar at lines like: “You’re going to eat that sandwich? His refrigerator has been broken for two weeks! He has milk standing in there and it’s not even in a bottle!”