Odd Couple cast

Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, a riotous comedy surrounding two unlikely male divorced roomies was first mounted by the Arts Club Theatre in 1967, back at the Seymour Street stage. The period piece takes place during a muggy New York City summer in 1965. Four friends are gathered at a poker table at Oscar Madison’s (Andrew McNee) sloppy digs. Sandwiches that have seen better days as well as months-old potato chips are munched (and joked about) as the buddies await Oscar (and much later) Felix Unger’s (Robert Moloney) arrival.

A divorced dad, Oscar (a sportswriter) is dealing with life on his own: making alimony payments vs. bachelor freedom. The four poker-player characters (Cavan Cunningham, Alec Willows, Joel Wirkkunen, and Josh Drebit) are developed through comic jabs, serving as build-up towards Felix’s arrival. As Felix hasn’t missed their weekly poker game in 15 years, there’s indeed cause for concern. When Felix finally surfaces, the guys pretend to keep calm, although it’s become known that his wife wants to leave him and he’s at the end of his mental rope.

Odd Couple cast

Disheveled and exhausted, Felix is beside himself. Freaked out over the impending divorce, he’s threatened suicide. The poker buddies head home, leaving Oscar to calm Felix down, but he’s just too uptight. And here’s where the comedy really sets in.

Oscar, a bit lonely in an eight-bedroom apartment, invites Felix to move in with him. The two couldn’t be more different if they tried. A 60’s bromance-turned-ugly gets underway as they try to make a go of what’s destined for disaster.

Andrew McNee, Robert Moloney
[Andrew McNee, Robert Moloney]

If you’ve either seen the play or the extremely popular 70’s TV series (starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman), you’ll be familiar with sloppy, easy-going Oscar and neat-freak, uptight Felix. I’m happy to report that both Moloney and McNee do a fantastic job of highlighting their differences while remaining close enough to tie things together in the end.

Kate Dion Richard, Sasa Brown
[Kate Dion Richard, Sasa Brown]

Act two starts off with Oscar’s barely-recognizable, now-immaculate apartment, all spiffied up for a date with the Pigeon sisters, Cecily (Kate Dion-Richard) and Gwendolyn (Sasa Brown). They live downstairs from Oscar and are hilarious as recent transplants from England. When things go wrong with dinner, the men are invited to the Pigeon apartment for cocktails and TV dinners (which delights Oscar and disgusts Felix). After all, Felix had just spent about four hours preparing dinner, now ruined by Oscar’s delayed arrival home from work. A domestic spat not unlike that of a married couple ensues when Felix is furious that Oscar wouldn’t bother to call him with the ‘Honey, I’ll be home late’ message.

The foursome stay in character so well that even an accidental fire alarm (that at first seemed perfectly timed with the overcooked meat scene) on opening night couldn’t ruin the momentum this talented group had going. We’d only wished that Oscar (and particularly Felix) would’ve entered the storyline earlier on and had not left the audience waiting for their characters to develop.

Andrew McNee, Robert Moloney
[Andrew McNee, Robert Moloney]

David Roberts does a fine job of emulating a 1960’s atmosphere on the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. The floral-motif apartment features deco accents with furniture that doubles as Oscar’s closet. Marsha Sibthorpe’s lighting evokes warmth and creature comforts inside with the evening glow of the Big Apple just outside the windows.

Neil Simon deservedly earned his first Tony Award for The Odd Couple. It remains a classic tale of friendship, loneliness, and personality clash — and does it with a heavy dose of humour and love.

The Odd Couple continues through February 23 at the Arts Club’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. Photos by David Cooper.

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