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March 26, 2008 > Play review: The Odd Couple

Play review: The Odd Couple

By Vidya Pradhan

Neil Simon's 1965 Broadway play has had many interpretations over the years (including a female version!), but I have to confess that my favorite is not the movie adaptation starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon but the television series spun off from the movie, with Tony Randall, playing Felix Ungar, as a perfect dyspeptic foil to Jack Klugman's "divorced, broke and slobby" Oscar Madison.

Broadway West, Fremont's little cultural island in a sea of suburban housing, brings us the classic comedy as part of an excellent 2008 season. Debutant director Drew Campbell dons two hats, directing the play and taking on the part of the fussy, neurotic Felix, whose nitpicking ways get on the nerves of his more laid back friend.

The play deals with opposites, and despite their very real differences, Oscar and Felix are good friends who have been playing poker with other close friends for over a dozen years. A domestic crisis casts the hypochondriac and emotional Felix out into the cold and his best friend Oscar decides to take him into his house, where he has been rattling around alone since his own divorce. Oscar's naturally slobby ways are reined in as Felix takes over as housekeeper and cook, nagging poor Oscar with the precision of a wife. How the two friends cope with the resulting stress on their long friendship is the mine for many comedic gems in one of the sharpest comedic scripts ever written for Broadway. Each line provokes laughter and there is plenty of room for broad comedy.

Both Drew Campbell as Felix and Kyle Smith as Oscar give stellar performances, even though Drew is a little too substantial to be playing the nervous Felix. Ross Harden Harkness is excellent as their friend Murray, proving to have the best comedic timing of the lot. His pitch perfect delivery gives the great lines even more zing, even as some of the other actors overplay their supporting roles.

Opening nights are always a little jittery and the cast has yet to settle into their performances and at times the lines are said a little too loud and a little hammier than they need to be. But the audience around me had an absolutely fantastic time as we laughed virtually every minute. The intimate setting of the Broadway West Theater was perfect to get the full benefit of the terrific script and share chuckles and guffaws with the other patrons, many of them season pass holders.

Both this play and the upcoming line-up at Broadway West are very attractive and I would heartily recommend putting the plays on your cultural calendar. It is a great way to share a bit of culture without punishing the wallet and spend some time laughing away your cares.

The Odd Couple
The classic comedy by Neil Simon
Directed by Drew Cambell
March 21 - April 19
8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. 1 p.m. on Sunday

Broadway West Theater Co.
4000-B Bay Street, Fremont
(510) 683-9218

Regular ticket prices are $22 general and $17 for Students, Seniors and TBA Members.
Thursday performances are $15 for everyone (no discounts).

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