Neil Simon’s 1965 play about diametrically opposing psyches having to live together not only delves into the two stars; it also examines their relationships to the half-dozen support actors (and two off-stage characters) who are intrinsic to the play’s success and longevity. ‘Oscar’ & ‘Felix’ may be the ‘odd couple’; but their friends proffer insights into the quirks or idiosyncrasies that are also familiar to audiences.
West End Studio Theatre has a history of successes. Their record is a result of a professional attitude toward every aspect of dramaturgy: – from penetrating & detailed production, meticulous direction; technical focus and naturally- talented performers. It’s not surprising that the ODD COUPLE is another positive link in the chain.
On the rare chance that some readers may not be familiar with the plot, it’s about two friends who due to circumstances; must intimately share their lives. Both men are in the media; Oscar is a sports writer, Felix pens the news. The former is an alpha-male jock who is a bit of a slob; Felix is an anal neat-freak. Now, a personal note…I’m an epitomic ‘Oscar’; my long-suffering muse is a Felix (or Niles Frasier retentive). It’s probably taken Terry a quarter-century just to get me to put down the toilet seat, let alone wipe up the dribbles! Moral- in spite of diverse personality traits, affection is an overpowering force.
The directorial duties are assumed by Yo Mustafa who also gives a highly credible rendering of Felix Ungar. Utilizing facial expression and exaggerated body language, we can physically feel the anguish he’s suffering at every dropped crumb or cigarette ash. His nemesis is immaculately portrayed by Chris Reid who incorporates every bit of his thespian talent to depict even the nuances of his exasperation with his confrontational roommate. The interaction is as dynamic as it was in their “ART” of a few years back!
There are the two teams of support roles. Mark St. John, Bernard Applewhaite, Amin Rahmani & Nick Biskupek are the other poker players/friends. St.John is the smart-assed biting one whose barbs are sharp and approach the line of offending. Rahmani is the cop with his own baggage. Applewhaite gives his accountant ‘Roy’ a rather dry interpretation that is more symbolic of a lawyer! Biskupek plays ‘Vinnie’ with just the right amount of obsequious deference that will make him readily familiar. The upstairs neighbors are a pair of somewhat lower-class British sisters. The gum-chewing gigglers are Lisa Weeks and Jo Kemp, and their contribution to both the on-stage action and as the catalyst that almost brings the two stars to blows; is of full measure. The crying scene between them and Ungar had me laughing but with wetting eyes.
Costumes are detailed and help define all of the characters. The set is typical Jane Coryell and although attractive, seems to be a little ‘same old; same old!’ Effective lighting, including the dimming/amplifying episode is a creative embellishment that makes its own contribution to the fun. The ODD COUPLE will be at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts until Feb. 16th and will appeal to every rational adult who’s willing to pay attention for 2½ hours. Otherwise, one might miss the succinct and clever lines, like “It takes two to make a lousy marriage!