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Theatre Review: The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple

by Neil Simon

Directed by Mark Kilmurry

Theatre Royal

Photo credit Pia Johnson

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

The Odd Couple Theatre Review

We’re all familiar with The Odd Couple television series that ran from 1970 to 1975. Felix Unger, an anally-retentive, fastidious neat freak, is thrown out of the marital home and is taken in by poker buddy, Oscar Madison, who is not exactly house-proud.

The premise might have inspired the twelve seasons of Two and a Half Men.

So is a concept that was created by Neil Simon exactly sixty years ago relevant to today’s society, or would it be considered to be a quaint period piece, given current mores and that the play was written years before Benny Hill went to air?

Sydney Theatre Reviews

Oscar is divorced and lives alone but he has a bunch of poker buddies who regularly meet at his place. There’s Roy (John Batchelor), an accountant who always wears a tie with his shirt, Speed (Laurence Coy), Vinnie (Jamie Oxenbould), Murray (Anthony Taufa) and Felix. All of the actors are very experienced and provide strong support for the two principals.

Oscar and Felix become acquainted with their upstairs neighbours who are sisters named Gwendolyn (Penny McNamee) and Cecily (Lucy Durack) in surely a nod to characters in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance ofBeing Earnest. The young Englishwomen are secretaries with extremely high-pitched voices and laughs and play their roles big. Neil Simon uses them to provide an unexpected, second act plot twist.

So is The Odd Couple dated? Is the plot relevant to society and relationships today?

There are references to telegrams, dialling telephones and other concepts that were commonplace in the 1960s and the set decor is definitely of the period. Relationships are relationships, even though there is no mention of same-sex attachments which seem to be compulsory in almost all productions these days.

Ron Lee Theatre Reviews

Shane Jacobson is understandably well cast as Oscar, and there are even glimpses of Ralph Kramden in his performance. In past productions that I’ve seen, Felix was inevitably played gay, but Todd McKenney plays him like a straight man who is particularly sensitive. In the second act he transforms to more of a traditional wife role with domestic arguments and frustrations. There is also the occasional flash of Paul Lynde.

Director Mark Kilmurry knows that comedy scenes are about the reactions to the dialogue as much as the dialogue itself, and he directs it loud and large, more than enough to fill the 1,200 seat Theatre Royal.

If you go to see The Odd Couple relaxed, receptive and ready to enjoy every moment, you’ll surely have a pleasant and entertaining evening at the theatre and have plenty of laughs along the way.


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