Updated Version Of `Odd Couple' Sparks Laughs
BY WARREN GERDS (PRESS-GAZETTE)
JACKSONPORT - A tweak here, a tweak there, and Neil Simon's 1965 Broadway hit "The Odd Couple'' stands up well in the version playing for six weeks at Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre.
The show is the first fall production at the theater, which has presented musicals for the past two summers.
"The Odd Couple'' stands up because guys still are getting divorced or separated and still sometimes fall into strange and comical alliances. Guys still play poker. When they meet new women, things can get bizarre.
A difficulty, though: "The Odd Couple'' has been seared into a common consciousness for at least one generation, not so much through the Broadway original with Art Carney and Walter Matthau but through the movie and TV versions with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. Any subsequent version faces an uphill climb. Door Off Broadway's does. Adjusting to the leads will take awhile for audiences.
Playing the explosive Oscar Madison is Erik Sterling Quam, a husky fellow. The fussy Felix Unger (spelled wrong in the program) is Christopher J. McKenzie, who is slight.
Along with the given differences, the performances on opening night took time to heat up and gather rhythm. But they did click. In the second and third acts, verbal nimbleness and physical energy flashed around the stage.
Quam and McKenzie are especially good going toe-to-toe in spats. They tap the New York City mentality (everything is a cataclysm), and Quam better taps the New York manner of speech.
The double date with the giddy Pigeon sisters (Kellie Louden and Ann McDonough) is a hoot. The poker buddies add spark and laughs, more so later in the play.
Director James A. Zimmerman looks for opportunities to bring the play into today. Felix tells Oscar to "take a couple of Prozacs'' (an antidepressant not in common use 36 years ago), and Oscar grumbles about being "cooped up here with Martha Stewart 24 hours a day.'' Things like that fit. The telephone on the set does not. It is too old. A sportswriter like Oscar would have a with-it model (and tech types would have to figure out how to make a cordless kind ring on stage on cue).
The spacious set and dining atmosphere are inviting. Altogether, this is a decent night out.
Press-Gazette Correction: THE SPELLING OF THE CHARACTER NAME FELIX UNGAR IS CORRECT IN THE DOOR OFF BROADWAY DINNER THEATRE PROGRAM FOR "THE ODD COUPLE." THIS REVIEW SAID THE SPELLING WAS WRONG. "UNGAR " IS THE SPELLING NEIL SIMON USED IN HIS ORIGINAL PLAY SCRIPT, AND "UNGER" WAS USED IN THE TV VERSION, SAID ERIK QUAM, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE THEATRE. 9/10/01