"The Odd Couple" at Academy Theatre, October 11-22, 2019
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Title: What Are the Odds?
Neil Simon’s "The Odd Couple" is pretty much a foolproof play. The writing is so good that the show is bound to succeed, particularly if the performances are full of energy. "Energetic" would certainly describe the Academy Theatre’s production, particularly in terms of the poker players. Speed (Andrés Salgado), Murray (Bert Lyons), Roy (Curtis Brown), and Erick Jackson (Vinnie) make a true ensemble, all with distinct characters and characteristics. When they’re on stage, the production speeds along.
The Pigeon sisters (Kay Bohan and Tina Cooper) are also lively, although the British accents of the actresses aren’t very authentic or consistent. The Oscar Madison of Rob Raissle is more of the slow-burn type, but Mr. Raissle is thoroughly convincing in the role. Jeff Cooper’s Felix Unger is curiously bloodless, keeping up the pace, but with the actor seemingly disconnected from the role.
Bob Wood’s set design shows a room with right angles -- great for a real house, but cheating audiences on the sides from seeing the side wall directly in front of them. There’s the apartment door far stage right, a kitchen pass-through next to it, with a dining table and chairs downstage. Stage left there are doorways to the bathroom and bedrooms, with a window upstage and a sofa and chair downstage. Far left is the telephone on a telephone bench. Jax Wright’s scenic design and painting combine with Kathryn Wood’s set dressing to make the room come to life. There’s macramé and string art and needlework on the mottled walls, setting the time period of 1965. Ms. Wood’s props also help set the time period.
Margi Reed’s costumes suggest the 1960s in the initial outfit of Cecily Pigeon. The men’s outfits, though, appear to be modern-day casual. The similarity of the untucked shirts and sneakers of Oscar and Felix fails to create a distinction between a slob and a neatnik, particularly since director Lynna Schmidt has Roy neaten up the place before Felix arrives (which contrasts bafflingly with Roy’s spilling potato chip crumbs in the last scene of the play).
Otherwise, Ms. Schmidt’s direction is quite good. Her blocking makes full use of the stage, and there are lots of little moments that make the characters come alive. Erica French’s lighting design and Robert Drake’s sound design complement the direction, keeping things visible and moving along.
Academy Theatre’s "The Odd Couple" may not be the definitive production of the play, but it’s certainly entertaining in its own right. Lynna Schmidt shows a sure hand in its direction, and she has inspired her cast to make lively choices that inspire frequent laughs. In any case, lots of laughs are built into Neil Simon’s classic script.