Before Harold & Kumar, Bill & Ted, Larry & Balki, there was Felix & Oscar. The pairing of two seemingly incompatible characters has been a classic storyline that is still in use today. However Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple has been long considered the definitive example of an unlikely couple who struggle to get along.
The play’s success has created an Odd Couple franchise that has resulted in two films and a notable TV series. Theater J pays homage to Simon’s comedy with the original version of the show that results in a trip back in time. The entertaining romp still makes audiences laugh today as it did back in 1965. At the center of it all are stars Rick Foucheux and J Fred Shiffman whose performances as Oscar and Felix are a must-see.
The show starts and takes place within the apartment of Oscar (Foucheux), a New York sportswriter. His friend Felix (Shiffman) is left down and out after his wife leaves him and Oscar comes to the rescue offering Felix a place to stay. The fact that the two are divorcees are the only thing they have in common. Oscar and Felix are complete opposites: Oscar a gambling, womanizing, slob and Felix a sensitive, neurotic, neat-freak. The calamity ensues as the two struggle to have their own way under the same roof.
The thought of two divorced bachelors sharing an apartment was unheard of back in its day. Now with such roommate living arrangements more common, audiences can easily relate to the daily battles Oscar and Felix fight. It is as if the two left their original marriages and took on an emotional relationship with each other. You can’t help but see it in their cranky, grouchy co-existence; reminiscent of any old married couple. They are that couple that makes you wonder how the two ended up together in the first place.
While the majority of the show is carried by Oscar and Felix, a supporting ensemble of their poker buddies provide an occasional break from the action. The group of Marcus Kyd, Paul Morella, Delaney Williams, and Michael Willis rack up laughs without drawing attention away from the two man show of Foucheux & Shiffman.
This was my first time watching a production of The Odd Couple but the show has a notorious reputation for itss logistical hurdles. An apartment needs to go from complete mess to spotless within a 15 minute intermission and plates of spaghetti are pretty much destroyed throughout the run. As a stage manager I have to commend production SM Karen Currie and her crew for running a tight ship and keeping the show on-pace.
Anchored by a timeless comedic pairing, The Odd Couple doesn’t lose anything after 45 years of entertaining audiences and Theater J finds that key ingredient to create a night of comedy you won’t be able to find on your DVR.