Pulitzer prize winner Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple was the precursor to the beloved ‘70s TV show. While I can’t compare it to the TV show (before my time), the play is an enjoyable stand-alone night of tender comedy (think a modern day Noel Coward, if you aren’t familiar with Simon’s wok).
Oscar and Felix couldn’t be more different. Oscar’s life has crumbled around him since his wife left. He rattles around in his eight-room bachelor pad and cannot keep up with alimony payments or the dishes. Felix, on the other hand, is fastidiously neat and so tightly wound that even his hair is clenched. When Felix’s wife suddenly turfs him out, he has nowhere to go, so Oscar takes him in. While the two drive each other up the wall, what follows is a touching and hilarious story of two lost souls finding something solid to cling to in the midst of change. It’s about friendship and facing reality.
Playing Felix and Oscar respectively, Tama Matheson and Jason Klarwein, worked together in Design for Living in 2013 and they still have fabulous chemistry and comic timing. Their witty quips zing, but the friendship they portray goes deeper than its comic surface. Often tense and competitive, the unlikely duo also draws strength from each other as they come to terms with their divorces.
While much of the play’s success rests with Matheson and Klarwein, their poker buddies (Tim Dashwood, Brian Probets, Steven Rooke and Colin Smith) deserve mention. While at times this ensemble’s simultaneous reactions felt like a choreographed crowd watching a tennis or ping-pong match, they provide a charming counterpoint to the extreme personalities of Felix and Oscar. Lauren Jackson and Amy Ingram play sisters, Cecily and Gwendolyn Pidgeon – whom Felix and Oscar make an attempt to date.
My favourite scene of the play would have to be when the neurotic Felix is left alone with the sisters and they all claw desperately for conversation. It was so hilarious and intensely awkward to watch, it reminded me of the comedy stylings of Ricky Gervais in The Office.
The last hurrah for QTC’s Artistic Director Wesley Enoch, the play was well shepherded; the timing and blocking is slick, highlighting both the comic and poignant moments. The set and lighting (Christina Smith and Matt Scott) create both a sense of chaos and also a haven for Felix and Oscar to recover in.
Go and see The Odd Couple. It’s a reminder that the best friendships are the ones that simultaneously encourage us to grow, and allow us to be our odd selves.
The Odd Couple will play at QPAC’s Playhouse Theatre till November 8.