“The Odd Couple,” one of Neil Simon’s simplest and least shticky comedies, is still entertaining more than 30 years after its debut, as currently demonstrated at the Little Brown Theatre in Springville.
Full of snappy one-liners and basic comedy devices (the title says it all; opposites are funny), the play is about recently divorced slob Oscar Madison (W. Bill Brown, Jr.) and his persnickety clean-freak friend Felix Ungar (Dane Allred). During the weekly poker game at Oscar’s apartment, Felix shows up, despondent: His wife is divorcing him. By the end of the first act (in which all the characters are rather irritatingly angry and flustered with one another), Felix is moving in with Oscar.
He wreaks havoc on Oscar’s slovenly lifestyle, constantly cleaning up and insisting the poker guys use coasters. Oscar’s annoyance at Felix’s obsessive-compulsiveness reaches the boiling point when British birds Gwen (Dana Campbell) and Cecily (MinD Jensen) come over for dinner and all Felix can do is weep about his ex-wife.
The scene with the women is the highlight in this production, as both actresses are infectiously giggly and bring a lot to the show. Brown and Allred do quite well as Oscar and Felix, too. Their comedy chemistry together isn’t as fine-tuned as it might be, but as individual characters, they’re spot-on.
Also well-cast is Kevin Macklay as poker buddy Murray. He’s the very picture of disheveled bumptiousness, and a treat to watch.
A minor quibble with the play’s time period: I don’t know what it is. It was written in the ’60s, and Gwen and Cecily’s outfits are clearly from that era. But some of the dialogue has been updated (particularly where prices of things are concerned), and various elements around the apartment like CDs and a Garfield poster indicate a modern setting. More communication between the director, set designers and costumers is probably in order. (Probably no one will be bothered by such a small thing; we mention it merely out of duty.)
The show has peaks and valleys; one suspects it’s the sort of production that may vary in quality from night to night. Overall, though, it’s as Neil Simon intended it: amusing, at times laugh-out-loud funny, and a day-brightener no matter what.
I was told later that the '60s costumes for the Pigeon sisters were intentional. The play was meant to be set in modern times, but the girls were supposed to be "retro." The mind-readers in the audience got this, I'm sure.