BWW Reviews: Stage Door's ODD COUPLE Brings Nuanced Laughs to Classic Comedy
Perhaps no modern play has been so engrained in our country's consciousness over the past five decades as Neil Simon's classic comedy, THE ODD COUPLE. That fact notwithstanding, Stage Door Players' production, running now through August 3rd, still finds new and inventive ways to entertain. The production, directed by Shelly McCook, stars Stage Door's Artistic Director Robert Egizio as uptight Felix Unger, and Atlanta Lyric Theatre's Associate Artistic Director Alan Kilpatrick as the slovenly Oscar Madison. Oscar takes in his best friend Felix after he is kicked out by his wife, despite the fact that the two have little in common, other than their weekly poker game.
All too often these icons are played as broadly drawn caricatures rather than nuanced characters. However, both Egizio and Kilpatrick are able to add humanity to the roles without lessening their comedic impact. Especially enjoyable was the contradiction between how the two leads carried themselves onstage. Egizio's Felix was as stiff and uptight as expected, while Kilpatrick's Oscar was loose-limbed, nearly flailing about in moments of both anger and excitement.
The rich characterizations allow the audience to see to the raw emotions of these two men, which are often overlooked in the hundreds of school and community theatre performances across the country each year. Both Oscar and Felix are dealing with the difficult task of rebuilding their lives after divorce, and through Egizio and Kilpatrick, we become privy to their struggles. While they might not bring the best out in each other, Oscar and Felix's friendship proves to be what each needs on the road to emotional recovery.
The play first made a cultural splash on Broadway in 1965, where it won five Tony Awards, before it was translated to the big screen in 1968. It has since seen a film sequel, two Broadway revivals (including a gender-reversed version), and four TV iterations, including a cartoon and an upcoming reboot starring Matthew Perry (as Felix) on CBS this coming season. Throughout all of these incarnations, fans keep coming back because of the universal story of the mismatched pair.
The poker playing ensemble provides a nice mix of reactions to the titular couple; from the sympathetic to the annoyed. Speed (Rial Ellsworth), Murray (George Deavours), Roy (Topher Payne), and Vinnie (Jim Dailey) alternately egg on Felix's neuroses, and play to Oscar's anger. No matter which way the group is pushing, they do so with expert comic timing and sharp performances.
The Pigeon sisters, played by Mary Emily O'Bradovich (Gwendolyn) and Kathleen Seconder (Cecily) add an extra bit of levity to the second act. In fact, I would say it would have been impossible to wipe the smile off of my face while they were on stage. Their double date with Oscar and Felix elicits nearly constant giggles and full out laughter.
Chuck Welcome out did himself in his set and scenic design. Oscar's apartment is absolutely gorgeous, and I am currently trying to track down his landlord so that I can make an offer to move in. Liz Whittemore's costume design perfectly complements each actor's performance.
For a slice American theatre nostalgia, there is no better place to go this summer than Stage Door Players. To get your tickets to see the show, visit their website, or call 770-396-1726.
Egizio and Kilpatrick | Stage Door Players