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The Odd Couple
a Comedy
by Neil Simon

COMPANY : The Magari Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Red Clay Theatre
ID# 5023

SHOWING : January 26, 2017 - February 01, 2017



Winner! 1965 Tony Award, Best Author of a Play

Nominee! 1965 Tony Award, Best Play

This classic comedy opens as a group of guys assemble for cards in the apartment of divorced Oscar Madison. And if the mess is any indication, it is no wonder that his wife left him. Late to arrive is Felix Unger who has just been separated from his wife. Fastidious, depressed and none too tense, Felix seems suicidal, but as the action unfolds Oscar becomes the one with murder on his mind when the clean-freak and the slob ultimately decide to room together with hilarious results as The Odd Couple is born.

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1966 Style
by playgoer
Monday, January 30, 2017
Magari Theatre Company has set its production of "The Odd Couple" in the year 1966. Its set (under the charge of Kathryn May), props (by Christopher S. Dills), costumes, and hair design (by Erin Gathercoal) all make strong attempts to set the time period. There are a few small deficiencies: the framing around the doors did not make use of a miter saw; there aren’t ashtrays in the living room; Oscar’s backwards ball cap obviously shows a modern-style adjustable snapback strap. Director Amanda Jewell has nearly all the actors smoke herbal cigarettes, and this leads to some unusual moments, such as when Roy’s complaint of Speed blowing smoke in his direction is followed almost immediately by Roy lighting up and when Gwendolyn Pigeon puts out a cigarette on the floor.

These are minor quibbles, though; the production lets Neil Simon’s strong script shine. Ms. Jewell has blocked some terrific comic moments, and her actors consistently give strong performances. The poker buddies interact believably and have distinct personalities. Cop Murray (Volnerius Rackley) has card dealing and wife issues that he handles with good humor. Nerdy Vinnie (Chase Vasser) plays against his physical type with sweet tentativeness (but not enough vocal projection). Greaser Speed (Kyle Porter) injects a taste of abrasive New York street life into the show. The put-together Roy (Kenneth Trujillo) acts as his counterbalance. Messrs. Porter and Trujillo are obviously talented, as evidenced by the fact that they act as understudies for Felix and Oscar respectively, even though the role of free-wheeling Speed is the opposite of strait-laced Felix and the role of well-pressed Roy is the opposite of sloppy Oscar.

The two women in the cast, the Pigeon sisters Gwendolyn (Halley Tiefert) and Cecily (Hayley Brown), are equally delightful, bursting into coordinated gales of girlish laughter at the start of their double date with Oscar and Felix. Their descent into sobs and tears as they converse with the downbeat Felix is the highlight of the show. Ms. Jewell has gauged the pace of the scene beautifully, and her actors deliver all the fun Mr. Simon has written into the play.

The heart of the show, of course, is the relationship between Oscar Madison (Eli T. Peña) and Felix Ungar (Eric Lang). Mr. Lang’s eyebrows are perfect for the role of downtrodden Felix, and he makes the most of Felix’s moose call-like attempts to clear his sinuses. His comic timing fits the role of Felix like a glove. Mr. Peña invests Oscar with tons of energy, spitting out his lines with power and variety, but he seems to have little comic sense. Some of his insults to Felix seem to cross over from sardonic to nasty. That removes some of the possible fun from the show, but it’s not a fatal flaw.

Magari Theatre Company is giving opportunities to a number of gifted actors who generally are new to the Atlanta theatre scene, with many having focused previously on film and television work. Under the confident and clever direction of Amanda Jewell, their talents are being shown to advantage onstage. Talented people are also at work behind the scenes, with the sound design of Shalom Aberle, as brought to life by sound technicians Matthew Bramlett and Shawn Collins, proving one of the highlights of the show. "The Odd Couple" may not be perfect in this incarnation, but it certainly lets Neil Simon’s script shine through. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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