Some people may believe that they know all about Neil Simon’s play “The Odd Couple” because they are familiar with the 1968 movie with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon or the television series that came after it in 1970 with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. While those works are fairly faithful to the source, there is nothing like the original. I say this because I think some may avoid attending Village Theatre’s production of the play because “they’ve already seen it.” But transporting something meant for the stage to film doesn’t always work. This is especially true of “The Odd Couple” since all the action takes place in an apartment which is not very exciting to look at for movie-goers. Plus, the movie version is slow-paced and long. If that is what you know of this story, then you must see this live production, playing now until March 25, 2012.
For those who aren’t familiar with any of the above, here’s the basic plot in a nutshell: Oscar Madison is a messy divorcee who lives in an eight room apartment in New York. Felix Unger is an uptight neat freak whose wife has just kicked him out. With no place to go, Oscar invites Felix to live with him and two mix like water and oil. Think Bert and Ernie for grown-ups.
Village Theatre’s version of the play is a delight from the first opening of the curtain to the final bow of the actors. I can’t remember a time when the set alone received applause from the audience, but this show does at least twice. Martin Christoffel’s set doesn’t scrimp on anything and adds unnecessary touches such as a view of a bathroom, a closet full of coats and sturdy walls so that when doors slam, the set stands still. The timing of the play is 19-something, and like the set, Christine Tschirgi’s costumes look as authentic to the times as the men’s sweat stains look on their shirts.
The cast is spot on and every character is fun to watch. This is one of Simon’s best plays, and fortunately, Village uses some of Seattle’s best talent to do the show justice. Headlining the show is Charles Leggett as Oscar. As a recipient and three time nominee for the Theatre Puget Sound Gregory Award, this is somewhat of a departure for the actor who is probably best known for his Shakespeare works. Not a stranger to Shakespeare himself is Chris Ensweiler as the equally annoying Felix. The two spar off one another effortlessly. Then there’s the poker guys played by Matt Wolfe, Eric Polani Jensen, Roger Welch and John X. Deveney who all worry about Felix’s mental health. The best act of the play is the first one where each of their characters gets a chance to shine. Later, the audience is introduced to the English “Pigeon Sisters” played by Betsy Schwartz and Caitlin Frances so well, that you would swear that they really were sisters. The characters are so well-liked; you’ll wish you could spend more time with them.
With the exception on some harsh language, the content of “The Odd Couple” is fairly tame. The story is even inspiring. Even when the two bachelors are at each other’s throats, they still realize how important their friendship really is. Both guys are a mess in different ways in the beginning and both leave in a better place by the end. It’s ironic that a play that focuses so much on divorce, that the importance of true friendship is worth fighting for.
“The Odd Couple” is playing the at its Issaquah location until February 26, 2012. The Francis J. Gaudette Theatre is located at 303 Front Street North, Issaquah, WA 98027. For tickets and more information call 425.392.2202 or visit their website.
“The Odd Couple” will then head up north to the Everett Performing Arts Center from March 2 to the 25, 2012. Tickets for that performance can be obtained by calling 425.257.8600 or visiting the website.
Originally posted on Examiner.com.