Thursday, July 05, 2007
Richmond.Com review of 'The Odd Couple'
Local version of Classic "Odd Couple" is delightful.
by Joan Tupponce
Since Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" appeared on Broadway in 1965, audiences have delighted in the unlikely pairing of Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar. Their antics carried over to film and television and are now entertaining audiences at Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern.
At first glance, Oscar and Felix are as outwardly opposite as Martha Stewart and Pigpen of Charlie Brown fame. Oscar is an unconcerned slob and Felix is a neurotic clean freak. But when you dig deep down, you find that Oscar and Felix are more alike than the surface impressions. They share similar feelings as they tread the waters of divorce and, even though they bicker, stay loyal to their friendship.
Some of Hollywood's best comedians -- Walter Matthau, Jack Klugman, Jack Lemmon, Art Carney and Tony Randall -- have portrayed these two unlikely roommates with much success.
In London, they even staged a female version (Florence Unger and Olive Madison). Instead of that poker game that opens the original male version, Madison has invited her female friends over for an evening of Trivial Pursuit. And, in this version, the Pigeon sisters have become the Costazuela brothers. The situation is the same. Only the gender changed.)
So what do David Bridgewater and Scott Wichmann bring to the traditional roles?
Director Joe Pabst gets a pat on the back for bringing these veteran actors together on the stage and surrounding them with a strong cast of supporting actors that can hold their own in the realm of comedy. With "The Odd Couple," Pabst has created a show that delivers on many emotional levels.
Bridgewater brings a genuineness to Oscar's disordered life that is quick to elicit laughter. He is at his best when he is trying to deal with Felix's quirks and neuroses, bursting into fits of comic frustration. He is also adept at showing the audience the character’s softer side when Oscar relates to his children and to the sadness that Felix is experiencing.
In his role as Felix, Wichmann is the obsessive-compulsive neurotic mess that Simon must have visualized when he wrote the part. Wichmann is a master when it comes to facial gestures, body language and physical comedy. His needy, nerdy, portrayal takes "odd" to new comic heights. When you pair Wichmann and Bridgewater, you have comic bliss.
Other standouts in the production include Derek Phipps who delivers a dead-on portrayal of henpecked Vinnie and the ditzy Pigeon sisters, played by Jen Meharg and Jennifer Frank. Even though their deliberate over-the-top portrayals are a little much, the sister act is a crowd-pleaser.
Scenic designers Terrie Powers and David Powers are to be commended for creating an apartment-like set that feels as real as any rentable space in the city. Their attention to detail -- autographed sports photos, vintage vacuum cleaner and dirty dishes in the kitchen -- adds to the authenticity of the show as does the lighting design of Bennett J. Fidlow.
"The Odd Couple" is a great laugh-out-loud show. Matthau, Klugman, Lemmon, Carney and Randall would be proud.
"The Odd Couple" runs through Aug. 12 at Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern. Tickets are $38, with a $4 discount for seniors, students and Ukrop's cardholders. You can purchase tickets by calling Barksdale Theatre's Box Office at 282-2620 or online at www.barksdalerichmond.org.