BWW Review: THE ODD COUPLE at Vagabond Theatre is Full of Wit and Snark
THE ODD COUPLE at the Vagabond Theatre, from start to finish was a pretty perfect production full of misfits and lovable rogues. Felix played by Eric C. Stein and Oscar played by Larry Malkus were standouts, which is good since the entire show rests solely - and comfortably - on their shoulders. Throughout the production, I felt these two actors looked so much like and spoke exactly like the Oscar and Felix I had imagined when I read the play a few years ago. Both actors were hilarious and completely committed to their own ridiculousness. They even managed to make it look as though they had lived in that New York apartment with eight rooms their entire adult lives.
Surrounding Oscar and Felix were the poker buddies; a crew of New Yorkers that one has grown to expect in any Neil Simon work. Each character, whether it was the sniveling Vinnie who just wanted to get home to his wife so he wouldn't be in trouble, to Murray the NYPD beat cop to Roy, Oscar's accountant to Speed who would rather have played poker than chat, were fantastic foils for Oscar and Felix. You could almost imagine each of them sitting around the same poker table 50 years ago and 50 years from now having the exact same arguments over whose turn it was and how much Oscar owed each of them. That's the beauty of this play - drop it in the 21st century and it still works just as well. As long as you've got great actors - which all of these gentlemen were - playing these guys, you're pretty much set.
Of course, Simon knew you couldn't cast an entire play without a single woman to break up the "guy's guy" feel. That's where the ladies from upstairs enter the scene. All Oscar wants to do is go out to dinner and have some fun, but Felix of course has other ideas for their double-date night. The problem is that Felix wants nothing to do with the girls - which makes him that much more attractive to them, naturally. "The Girls" played by Rachel Roth and Anne Shoemaker were brilliant at playing up the flirting and the fun. As with the guys, everything about them screamed 1960s New York which is perfect for this show.
Though the ladies added even more hijinks and fun to an already very funny show, THE ODD COUPLE has always been essentially a buddy comedy. Two gentlemen that shouldn't be friends but for some inexplicable reason become the best of buds. The story of these two polar opposites being forced to pair up has surely existed in hundreds of iterations over the years. But in this instance, you can definitely tell from the fun they're having on stage why anyone would put these two together in the first place and why they've remained friends to this day.