Arts Club:Surrey Arts Centre

The Odd Couple by Neil Simon

Dates and Venue 23 January – 23 February 2014, Tues at 7:30pm, Wed – Sat at 8pm (matinees Wed, Sat & Sun at 2pm) | Surrey Arts Centre

Director John Murphy Set Design David Roberts Costume Design Barbara Clayden Lighting Design Marsha Sibthorpe Sound Designer Murray Price Stage Manager Angela Beaulieu

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

Boomers and Zoomers alike have all probably seen the old sitcom or movie based upon Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. For them, a good deal of the hilarious one-liners and the roll-on-the-floor-because-you-can’t-stop-laughing antics arising from the conflict between Felix Unger, the straight-laced compulsive neat-freak and Oscar Madison, the loud-mouthed slob of a sports reporter have almost become a part of their cultural psyche. But the Arts Club Theatre production of this tightly-woven comedy is sure to appeal to all ages, because it is fundamentally a play about friendship, human nature and the pitfalls that occur when close friends try to cohabitate and fail with admirable hilarity.

The play opens with four poker buddies making themselves at home around the dining room table in their buddy Oscar Madison’s (Andrew McNee) apartment. They’ve started to play, but they’re waiting for their missing friend Felix Unger (Robert Moloney). The place is a mess, and Oscar is obviously a bigger slob than NYC is an Apple. Soon the phone rings, and the group of gamblers discover that somewhere in the city that never sleeps, their absentee friend is missing, lost, alone, and possibly suicidal. Seems kind of heavy for a comedy, but the humorous zingers never let things drift towards melodrama and soon Felix appears amusingly disheveled and distraught at the fact that his wife has kicked him out of their home.

As the story progresses, Oscar invites Felix to move in with him (he too is a divorcee and the choice seems only natural), and Felix accepts. Soon, however, their diametrically opposing temperaments and habitual lifestyle predilections threaten their friendship, and fraternity turns to fractious wrangling. Again, the mood is inevitably light, even as the situation comes to a head after an evening that was supposed to lead to romantic encounters with the two eligible and attractive British sisters who live in an apartment close by.

The Pigeon sisters, Gwendolyn (Sasha Brown) and Cecily (Kate Dion-Richard), add some much-needed estrogen to the mix as they effortlessly flirt their way through an abortive chicken dinner party amid Felix’s hilariously awkward and virtually backward advances. Felix’s overtures prove that success is only a failure away.

Much of the humour is admittedly droll, as when Felix attempts to give his roommate the silent treatment, upbraiding Oscar for his tardiness and failure to phone when he knew dinner was set for a certain time. But, there are also a great deal of belly laughs prompted by the expertly handled physical comedy of all the minor characters and the two principals. McNee is clearly one of the more athletic actors around the city these days, and he has several opportunities in this play to demonstrate his athletic prowess. He also seems to almost channel Walter Matthau in several locutions, voluble and valiant, shaken and stirred.

Odds are very good that you won’t find more laughs or a funnier comedy this Spring than the Arts Club Theatre production of The Odd Couple.

© 2014 Roger Wayne Eberle