Friday, February 17, 2006

An oddball in 'The Odd Couple'

On Wednesday evening we went to see Neil Simon’s ‘The Odd Couple’ with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. You can’t think Felix and Oscar without imaging Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon (and for some Art Carney). Still, we felt we should check it out.

My biggest apprehension was that Nathan Lane would be too over the top for Oscar. Mr. Lane did a great job toning down his larger than life persona only occasionally allowing it to show. The rest of the cast, including Mike Starr and Rob Bartlett, were equally as funny and made a great supporting cast. What got to me and I wasn’t the only one was Mr. Broderick’s Felix. I felt I was watching a caricature throughout the entire play. He was a toned down version of Ed Grimmly.

pg:“Why is he doing that to his voice?”
L: “I have no idea. It’s a bit distracting.”

What makes The Odd Couple work is the characters are everyday people. As in all friendships, we all have quirks we can’t stand about each other but there’s that bond of friendship that keeps us together. Mr. Broderick’s Felix wasn’t an everyday person. He was a musical version of Felix, a glossy image. In a musical, singing punctuates the drama. In a play, you are who you are. There is no singing soliloquy to express your fears, your desires, and your emotions.

Maybe it was an off night. Maybe his comedic timing was slightly off. By intermission, a few patrons were whispering the same sentiments. Still, The Odd Couple is a great play and it was nice to see the revival on Broadway. The set design was lovely. During the first scene, the apartment was in such disarray, I felt compelled to get up and start cleaning Oscar’s desk and straighten his blinds.

The theatre is small enough that every seat is a good seat although the seating is quite cramped. Many in the audience, as you can guess, are veterans to The Odd Couple and anticipate the punch lines. I was not totally faultless in this respect, either.

There is a brief extension of its run but I’m not sure of the ticket availability. All in all it was wonderful to see a great play revived on stage. If you like Neil Simon’s work, check it out just don’t expect Matthau and Lemmon.