It’s been a looong time since I saw “The Odd Couple” movie and nearly as long since I watched the TV series.
So I was pleasantly surprised by the Abilene Community Theatre’s production.
I went to the final dress rehearsal on Wednesday, which meant a scarce crowd. The applause was light due to the number of people, but the laughs and giggles rang out in the empty space.
For those not familiar with “The Odd Couple” (is there anyone?), it’s a Neil Simon play about two best friends, Oscar Madison, a good-natured slob, and Felix Unger, an uptight, uber tidy hypochondriac. After Felix’s wife kicks him out, he moves in with Oscar.
I didn’t remember how much Oscar (Rodger Brown) cared for and worried about Felix (Tony Redman). And how kind and concerned the poker buddies — Murray (Eddie Templeton), Speed (Steven Suchey), Roy (Bill Martin) and Vinnie (Don Connel) — are about the supposedly suicidal Felix (he sent his wife a suicide telegram).
The guys’ relationships were very touching and not the norm these days.
When the curtain opened, it solicited an immediate laugh. Trash lay strewed across the floor and the tables; there was a tie that had been tossed on a wall clock and empty bottles and glasses everywhere — the perfect Oscar Madison decorating theme.
The two leads did a good job capturing their characters. I’m not sure what kind of housekeeper Brown might be in real life, but he plays a slob very well. Redman told me earlier that he was just about as far across the tidiness spectrum from Felix Unger as he could be, but he sure did the fussy, whiny Felix justice.
Director Mike Stephens knows his stuff. When I went to ACT last week to talk to him, Brown and Redman, I walked into the theater and got to watch him talk with his cast following rehearsal.
Everything he asked of them or talked to them about was fixed by the time I saw the full show.
When the second act opens, the now-shared apartment of Oscar and Felix is spotless.
As expected, the slob and the neatnik go together like polished furniture and a coaster-free, drippy glass.
Brown nails Oscar’s slow burn of frustration and anger which seems obvious to everyone but Felix. Redman’s character just dusts and wipes and serves away, completely oblivious.
The four poker buddies showed equal parts disgust and frustration with Felix’s fastidiousness. With the possible exception of Connel’s Vinnie, who revels in the tasty dishes Felix prepares for the poker party. Templeton’s Murray gets in on a little of that action, too.
Suchey does a great job of stomping around and grousing about Felix. Martin plays Oscar’s accountant who gives him bad financial advice and then loans him money to play poker.
The play gets even funnier when the Pigeon sisters, Gwendolyn (Stephanie Phillips) and Cecily (Tasha Diamond), join the cast. Or is that Cecily and Gwendolyn?
Phillips and Diamond relish their roles as the flirtatious and slightly naughty Brits from upstairs. They delivered the double entendres in British accents with little giggles. Spot on.
The jokes are still funny, even nearly 40 years later.
There are 7:30 p.m. performances Friday, Saturday and Nov. 6-8 and a 2 p.m. performance this Sunday.
It’s a fun evening at the theater. Head to ACT and revisit 1965. You’ll enjoy it.