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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Odd Couple, at Comedy Theatre - 2 hours, plus a 20-minute interval

In New York, two separated guys – best mates – move in together.

 

They are like chalk and cheese … polar opposites in terms of their approach to life.

 

One – news writer Felix Ungar – is uptight, angst riddled, awkward and “anal” about cleanliness and cooking.

 

The other – sportswriter Oscar Madison – is laid back and a slob.

Photos by Pia Johnson

 

In no time, they drive each other “nuts”. Oscar is frustrated as hell – all but at wit’s end.

 

That is the straightforward, hilarious contention behind Neil Simon’s play, aptly named The Odd Couple.

 

It premiered on Broadway in 1965 and was parlayed into an Oscar-nominated film, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, three years later.

 

Thereafter followed a well-received television series with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman (1970-1975).

 

In turn, it was revived in the past decade (2015-2017) with Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon.

Popular stars Shane Jacobson (Oscar) and Todd McKenny (Felix) assume the key roles in this new Australian production and do a terrific job.

 

The play starts out with Felix unusually late for a boys’ regular, weekly poker game.

 

It turns out that he has been turfed out of home by his wife and his five buddies are concerned he could be suicidal.

 

Distraught and disoriented, Oscar invites Felix to move in to his large, eight room, 12th storey apartment.

 

Little could he have envisaged just how fraught the relationship between the pair could get.

 

The straw that breaks the camel’s back is when Oscar invites a couple of English ladies that live in the same building to dinner.

 

Mayhem ensues.

The Odd Couple is a most enjoyable hoot, although it took me the best part of the first half to warm to it.

 

Initially, I felt the jokes were dated, but for me the play started to take off after Felix moved in with Oscar.


Jacobson and McKenny capitalised upon the mismatch, as their comedic prowess found full voice (they are such outstanding and natural performers).

 

It reached a crescendo in Act II, with the introduction of “ditzy blondes” (one plays a brunette, but I am sure you get my meaning), Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon.

It is then that the laughs come thick and fast, as Lucy Durack (Cecily) and Penny McNamee (Gwen) exploit the discomfort involved in their first date with the fellas.

 

The interactions are a sheer delight. I just kept chuckling and chuckling. I was also acutely aware of the glee all around me.

 

What a deliciously amusing turn from the ladies.

 

The physical nature of the comedy gives it an added dimension that elevates the spectacle.

 

That was also the domain of the lads’ four fellow card players, Laurence Coy (Speed), Anthony Taufa (Murray), John Bachelor (Roy) and Jamie Oxenbould (Vinnie).

I thought the sprawling apartment set, with a fine attention to detail (designed by Justin Nardella), was fabulous.


I also greatly appreciated the evocative costuming. Billy Roache was responsible for that.

 

The sound and lighting design from Michael Waters and Trudy Dalgleish respectively also hit the mark.

 

I walked out with a warm smile on my face, feeling good. Surely that is a sign that The Odd Couple has weaved its magic.

 

Directed by Mark Kilmurry, it is playing at Comedy Theatre until 23rd June, before moving to Theatre Royal Sydney between 27th June and 28th July, 2024.

 

Incidentally, like the show, the theatre program is rich and colourful.

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