Not odd that Neil Simon comedy is lots of fun at Old Lyric Repertory Company
"THE ODD COUPLE," Caine Lyric Theatre, 28 W. Center, Logan; through Aug. 9 (various times); $12-$25, https://arts.usu.edu/lyric; running time: 125 minutes (one 10-minute intermission)
LOGAN — One of the first — and lingering — thoughts about “The Odd Couple,” the second offering of Logan’s Old Lyric Repertory Company this summer, is how well the 50-year-old production holds up. In fact, it is not the least bit odd that the Neil Simon-penned comedy was a warmly received hit opening night.
Credit OLRC director Richie Call for not trying to “modernize” the play, first staged on Broadway in 1965. This production’s set and costumes accelerate the mid-’60s feel, right down to the wall clock and character’s eyewear. And, remarkably, the humor and snappy dialogue don’t feel the least bit dated, old-fashioned or time-worn. It worked then; it works now.
“The Odd Couple” opens with a card game, a weekly tradition among friends at the apartment of recently divorced sports writer Oscar Madison (Lego Louis). Joining him are Speed (Richard Johnson), neighborhood cop Murray (Lance Rassmussen), Roy (Tim Roghaar) and Vinnie (W. Lee Daily). Oddly missing from this week’s poker game, though, is Felix Unger (William Grey Warren).
The bantering around the poker table in the opening scene is perfect. It is a wonderful setup, a well-acted warmup and precursor to what is coming. In just a few moments, the actors get the ensemble of characters and the production on the ground at running speed. All action in and around the game is well-choreographed and true-to-reality. There are several laugh-out-loud moments. Add to that, the introduction of Felix as a main character is accomplished without him even being there, as his friends add their two cents to the mental picture audience members are working on.
Once on stage, Warren is given every opportunity to have a great time with his Felix. With ears and sinuses that clog easily because of allergies and muscle cramps that come and go, Warren gives a rib-tickling combination of voice, physical humor and facial features. He was a great choice for the almost-OCD and self-loathing Felix.
After intermission, the audience is introduced to the Pigeon sisters, Gwendolyn and Cecily (Tamari Dunbar, Rachel Shull), who live upstairs from Oscar and Felix. Unger, you see, is now separated from his wife and bunking with the sloppy, easy-going Oscar, leading to many conflicts and resulting funny moments. The sisters look almost like British twins in their LuLu-esque outfits, hairdos and accents. Both Shull and the always steady Dunbar are very watchable. But the third scene basically belongs to Warren, who continues to shine as the uptight Felix. Only an almost-antique Kirby vacuum could upstage his performance.
There are no weak links in this comedy. It offers a great summer evening outing. And it won’t be considered odd or unusual when word-of-mouth brings in bigger crowds to enjoy humor that hasn’t missed a step in half a century.
The “Odd Couple” runs in repertory with “Nunsense,” and will soon be joined by “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “The Woman in Black.”
Jay Wamsley lives in Smithfield and covers events in and around Cache Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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