BWW REVIEW: Neil Simon's Comic Tale Of Unlikely Flatmates Proves Timeless In Ensemble Theatre's New Production of THE ODD COUPLE
Wednesday 27th November 2019, 8:15pm, Ensemble Theatre
Mark Kilmurry (Director) delivers a beautifully hilarious and poignant presentation of Neil Simon's comedy classic THE ODD COUPLE. In the intimacy of Ensemble Theatre, the audience has a ringside seat to the delightfully funny and familiar play.For those that may be unfamiliar with THE ODD COUPLE, which premiered on Broadway in 1965, was turned into a movie in 1968 and later a television series in the 1970's plus various sequels, reboots and reimagining's, the premise is quite simple. Middle aged sports reporter Oscar Madison (Steve Rodgers) is living the bachelor life in his 8 room marital apartment in uptown New York, enjoying poker games with his buddies and the freedom to live like a slob after his divorce. One night, the poker group's 6th member, Felix Unger (Brian Meegan) has failed to turn up and eventually the gathered five are given cause to worry with fears that aren't assuaged even when the high strung anxious friend turns up. The fastidious Felix is reeling from the breakdown of his own marriage and surprisingly Oscar offers that Felix move in with him and the reasons why both men are now single start to show. Set and Costume Designer Hugh O'Connor has created a well-appointed New York apartment, indicating that, despite often gambling away the alimony he is supposed to send to his ex-wife, Oscar can't be doing that badly. Over the elements of a good home, the detritus of Oscar's slovenly life are strewn everywhere indicating that it will just take the caring hand of someone like Felix who takes the time to pick up things and put them away to turn the place around. The ensemble are attired in clothes that capture the era, particularly British neighbors, twins Cecily (Olivia Pigeot) and Gwendolyn (Katie Fitchett). Kilmurry has created a balanced work that ensures that the comic points are hit perfectly while also presenting a refreshing expression of men coming together in support of each other. While there is bluff and bluster during the card game, when things really matter, the men rally for a caring and compassionate response to the situation highlighting that men can be loyal friends and aren't just about macho men too scared to provide support and concern for a friend in need. The interplay between Rodgers and Meegan is brilliant as the slip into traditional roles of domesticity but ultimately frustrated by the other's inability to change their ways. Poker friends Speed (Laurence Coy), Roy (Robert Jago), Murray (James Lugton) and Vinnie (Nicholas Papademetriou) are presented with a delightful individuality as they shift from bickering over how slow Murray deals and how often Vinnie checks his watch to how they cope when one of their own goes off the rails. The weakest part of the story is the over enthusiastic twins as Simon has painted them as stereotypes rather than giving them any depth. THE ODD COUPLE is an evening of easy entertainment that still has the audience considering friendships and the challenge of changing behaviors even if you know that they may be adversely affecting your life.
Photos: Prudence Upton