by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Have you been wishing that those good old days would come back? When gas prices were low and you and your kids liked the same TV shows? Then make reservations at Alhambra Theatre & Dining to see the current show, which is a double dose of pure nostalgia.
You will see a marvelous production of Neil Simon’s superbly crafted comedy The Odd Couple. The play is 47 years old but is as popular today with professional and community theatres as it was back in the sixties when it was winning Tony awards.
The Alhambra has brought in Barry Williams, who portrayed Greg Brady on the family television hit The Brady Bunch, to star as Oscar. In addition, Director Tod Booth has assembled an outstanding cast, and as well added the unique Tod Booth subtleties to the action, that put some new spins on a familiar play.
The plot concerns a fussy divorce-shocked newswriter, Felix, who moves in with his sloppy sportscaster friend, Oscar and their inability to see eye-to-eye, which results in many heated discussions, wounded feelings, and hysterical escapades.
The opening scene is the Friday night poker game with all the regular gang assembled for an evening of warm beer, stale sandwiches and plenty of very funny one-line jokes. There is Steve Osborn’s jumpy worrywart Murray, the New York cop; Jon Coen’s cringing, henpecked Vinnie; Earlye Rhodes as the excitable Roy, Oscar’s accountant; and Matt Burke as the outraged and irritable Speed. Only Felix is missing. After Oscar and his buddies learn he has just unwillingly separated from his wife and two children and may be considering suicide, all the frantic fun begins.
Barry Williams is marvelous as the slob Oscar. Using animated body language and exceptional vocal variety, he is not only hilarious but convincing. And he throws his heart and soul, as well as cigar ashes, into a very energetic performance.
Michael Strauss, who was such a big hit last year as Charlie Baker in the Alhambra’s The Foreigner plays the role of the neat-freak Felix Unger to a T. The chemistry between Mr. Williams and Mr. Strauss was remarkable; both were at the top of their form.
The two actors get even funnier in the second act, especially when they set up a double date with the Pidgeon sisters, two very proper British ladies who live in an upstairs apartment. Michelle Lynn Myers as Gwendolyn, with Michelle Barry as Cecily, are absolutely perfect for the roles and in fact even look like sisters.
Even if you have seen the 1968 movie or the TV series, you will find this version of The Odd Couple delightful. It remains one of the best comedies ever written and is still as funny as ever, perhaps because we find ourselves choosing sides as the characters are caught up in daily struggles between the extremes of obsessive neatness and cluttered chaos.
The costumes by the Costume Crew included lots of comfortable, rumpled guy clothes, all appropriate for doing guy things. The Pigeon sisters were both stylishly dressed in colorful shaped sheaths, representative of the fashions of the era.
The spacious apartment on Riverside Drive was designed by Dave Dionne, and included a façade that suggested an older New York brownstone. And yes, as the curtains open, we find the interior is satisfactorily messy, with a bright patterned wallpaper, framed pictures hung haphazardly, and clothes and pizza boxes and grocery bags strewn throughout.
Barry Williams in THE ODD COUPLE
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM