THE ODD COUPLEby Neil Simon
Richardson Theatre Centre
Directed by - Rachael Lindley
Set Design - Chris Berthelot
Lighting Design - Chris Berthelot
Sound Design - Richard Stephens, Sr.
Costumes and Props - cast and crew
Stage Manager - Leigh Wyatt Moore
Richard Stephens, Sr. - Speed
Rusty Harding - Murray
Budd Mahan - Roy
Audie Preston - Vinnie
Joe Barr - Oscar Madison
Eddy Herring - Felix Ungar
Heather Walker Shin - Gwendolyn Pigeon
Laura Jennings - Cecily Pigeon
Reviewed Performance: 1/26/2018
Reviewed by Carol M. Rice, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
This is definitely the case when it comes to Richardson Theatre Centre's new production of the comedy classic. Opening night was jam packed, with additional chairs being added to fit everybody in! Fortunately for us all, Rachael Lindley's fine production did not disappoint.
The play opens on four poker players complaining about (among other things) their absent host's disastrously messy apartment. Chris Berthelot's functional set works very well for this scene, complete with mismatched chairs and clothes hanging off of nearly every picture in the room. Especially fun was the row of ties on the railing by the front door, as if they came off the instant their owner got home. The ugly sofa was also covered in mismatched pillows, and there was just a general feeling of "ick" about the place. Richard Stephens, Sr., Rusty Harding, Budd Mahon, and Audie Preston had nice chemistry as they bickered about the game and their lives in general. Their New York accents were excellent, and they successfully set up a good, quick pace for the show.
While these gentlemen provided us with some entertaining banter, the tempo really picked up once Joe Barr entered the room. Barr is our Oscar Madison, and I will admit that before seeing him onstage in the role, I thought this was an odd choice of casting. Having seen him in other shows previously, I thought he was much more the "Felix type." Boy, was I wrong! Barr brings a fun, youthful slovenliness to his portrayal of the infamous slob. His facial expressions and lazy body control are spot on, and he, too, has a good New York accent. As his relationship with Felix develops, we see an extremely well-rounded character, as Barr manages to cover the entire gamut of emotions quite believably without losing the comic timing necessary for this show to work. Great job!
Oscar's nemesis Felix Ungar is portrayed by the equally versatile Eddy Herring. Barr and Herring obviously enjoy playing off of each other, and they do it quite well. While Herring's Felix feels a bit less realistic than Barr's Oscar, it is no less effective. With his overly dramatic sighs and somewhat effeminate cooking and cleaning skills, he kept the audience in stitches. He was, however, the only one of the men without any trace of a New York accent.
Heather Walker Shin and Laura Jennings round out the cast as the boys' upstairs neighbors, the Pigeon sisters. Shin is the more grounded sister, Gwendolyn, while Jennings plays the more flamboyant Cecily. Both are just adorable, and it's no wonder Oscar wants to...um...get to know them better. They giggle and coo (literally) through their scenes, and the audience can't help but smile along with them.
I think one of the things that makes this production of The Odd Couple work better than some of the others I've seen in the past is that it is cast with adults, rather than kids in their early twenties who just don't GET some of the humor that comes from having lived through some of these things. Consequently, the comedy is there because the actors understand the humor of the situations and aren't trying to just manufacture the laughs. Kudos to Ms. Lindley on her casting decisions!
The only downsides to the production are somewhat nit-picky. The costumes are rather inconsistent and don't really tell us what the time period is...until the ladies arrive halfway through Act II. More attention to the men's costumes could have been paid. Because there is not a specific costumer listed, this could be the reason. The other issue has to do with Berthelot's lighting design. The "edges" of the stage toward the audience aren't clearly defined and actors were occasionally in the dark if they went too far downstage.
But like I said: nit-picky. The show as a whole is one of the best I've seen at Richardson Theatre Centre and is probably THE best version of The Odd Couple I've ever seen. From top to bottom, the cast really shines, and Ms. Lindley brings out the best in all of them with creative blocking and funny moments. I highly recommend buying your tickets early for this show, as they are already selling out - and rightly so. It is definitely one you don't want to miss!
Richardson Theatre Centre
518 W. Arapaho Rd., Suite 113
Richardson, TX 75080
Runs through February 11
Actual days: Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm
Tickets are $20-22
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.richardsontheatrecentre.net or call the box office at 972-699-1130.