As of Wednesday night, The Arts Club Theatre Company launched their second presentation of The Odd Couple: a play and movie written by Neil Simon back in 1966.
An American playwright with over forty years of experience under his belt, Neil Simon is a man with a flair for taking subjects like divorce, heartbreak, and suicide, and finding humor in them. From there, it only makes sense that when he combines all three of those things, tosses them into a Manhattan apartment straight out of the sixties, gives them a violent shake, and serves them on the rocks, that you get a night of hilarity that stays fresh and vibrant no matter how many times it’s done.
The Odd Couple follows the story of two best friends—Felix Unger and Oscar Madison—who, under unfortunate circumstances, end up living together in Oscar’s apartment. Over the course of a few weeks (or a couple of highly entertaining hours depending on how you’re looking at it) we witness the crumbling of their relationship even as they struggle to tidy the mess of their individual lives. Needless to say, it’s a situational comedy that’s easy to relate to no matter what decade you were born into.
Nestled comfortably amidst a sea of expectant eyes and double-olive martinis, we kicked back into our seats and settled down for a fancy night of live entertainment. As elegant as the theatre was, there was an near-audible groan of what was either old age or jealousy as the curtains drew back to reveal the set behind them. The design was immaculate: the walls were painted and trimmed, the windows opened to a three-dimensional cityscape, and the mountains of dirty laundry/garbage were placed just right. As the lights went down and the play began, the audience was seamlessly whisked back to the time of suspenders, cigar boxes, and crank-telephones.
It was easy to see the chemistry between Andrew McNee (Oscar) and Robert Moloney (Felix) as they hashed out their character differences on stage. Never before have I seen an actor transition from being a distraught train-wreck of a person to a clean-cut robotic neurotic in nothing more than a quick change of scene. Moloney managed to go from heartbroken despair to nauseous cheeriness at the drop of a hat—or more appropriately, the drop of spaghetti, and McNee’s multiple breakdowns were more convincing than any version of Oscar I had ever seen.
The supporting cast also put on a spectacular performance during their comedic poker spats, and though the accents of the ‘Pigeon sisters’ occasionally varied from English-grammar-school to Irish-cowgirl, not a single actor broke out of character despite the sheer absurdity of the scenes.
In fact, they were so convincing and that even when an alarm went off somewhere backstage, it took a few lines of dialogue before the audience realized that it wasn’t actually a part of the play. It was only when the announcer apologized for the inconvenience that we realized the bleating alarm was a little too realistic.
Not to worry: the fire department arrived within minutes, the alarm was promptly fiddled with and silenced by the theatre staff, and before long, we were back to watching the hilariously painful small talk between Felix and the Pigeon sisters.
Overall, the play was incredibly well done by everyone involved—both on and off stage, and despite the alarming hitches of the evening, the audience spilled out into the lobby with smiles on their faces and a buzz of excitement in the air.