Saturday, June 23, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Odd Couple -- CT Rep

Pat Sajak as Felix Ungar and Joe Moore as Oscar Madison in Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Nutmeg Summer Series production of Neil Simon’s comedy classic, The Odd Couple playing in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre, Storrs, June 12 – July 7.  For tickets and information call 860-486-2113 and visit www.crt.uconn.edu.  Photo by Bob Copley.
The Odd Couple
By Neil Simon
Directed by Vincent J. Cardinal
CT Rep

What is it about?
You probably don't need to ask that since you probably have seen a staging of the play or the movie starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, or the long-running TV version starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, but just in case, it's about a sloppy, gambling sportswriter named Oscar Madison (news anchor Joe Moore) who invites uptight, hypochondriac, clean freak Felix Ungar ("Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak)  to move in to his large New York apartment to save money since both have to come up with a way to live while paying alimony and child support. Felix is soon messing up Oscar's weekly poker night with the guys (a nice little ensemble played by Murray Rubenstein, Brad Bellamy, Patrick Kerr and David Alan Stern) and cramping Oscar's style. He suggests they go on a date with the Pigeon sisters, Cecily and Gwendolyn (Kathleen McNenny and Liz Larsen), two single girls living upstairs in the apartment building. Felix is pining for his ex wife and messes up Oscar's plans again. As the TV show asked, "Can two grown men live together without driving each other crazy?"

What are the highlights?
The direction by Cardinal, CT Rep's artistic director and head of the Department of Dramatic Arts at UConn is spot on. Nice touches add to the humor of Simon's script, which still holds up nicely (the play premiered on Broadway in 1965 -- Oscar refers to paying $250 a month for an eight-room apartment. Can you imagine?)

Costumes by Sara Ewing are exquisite in their authenticity to the period. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that she selected the garments, ties, etc. while shopping in actual vintage clothing stores. A really nice job here.

McNenny's Cecily is a treat.

Moore is a convincing Oscar and has a nice rapport with Sajak -- the two have been real-life friends since their tour of duty together in Viet Nam.

What are the lowlights?
Sajak is a more easy going, content, less persnickety Felix. He appears to have his eyes closed a lot(maybe he's just looking down and the lighting makes them appear closed?) and the result is a less animated Felix. He does some nice crying and honking (Felix clears his sinuses) that get some deserved laughs, though.

Michael Anania's set has fake moulding that looks fake. Paitnings on the wall don't seem Oscar-like -- wouldn't there be sports memorabilia and a lot more clutter around the apartment? It looked fairly neat to me. Also, there is a scene where Felix is fussing about the poker guys using coasters to avoid leaving rings on the table -- but the table has a cloth on it...

More information:
The Odd Couple, the second in CT Rep's Nutmeg Summer Series at UConn runs through July 7 in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre, 2132 Hillside Road on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Performances: Tuesday - Thursday at 7:30, Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2  2 and 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm.Ticket prices range from $32 to $45.  All Student/Child tickets are $10. The box office opens one hour prior to curtain at the Jorgensen.  Daily box office hours are noon – 5 pm at the Nafe Katter Theatre also on the Storrs campus at 820 Bolton Road. Call 860-486-2113 for tickets or visit  www.crt.uconn.edu.

Running time is around two and a half hours with an intermission.

See a video clip from the show at http://www.youtube.com/user/CTRepTheatre.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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