The Odd Couple
Oddly still funny after all these years
|Northlight Theatre presents|
|The Odd Couple|
Review by Leah Zeldes
The world was a very different place in 1965, when Neil Simon wrote The Odd Couple. Roger Miller’s "England Swings" hit the top of the music charts, and mini skirts and go-go boots had just been introduced in Paris by Andre Courreges as part of his 1964 "Space Age" collection. Divorce was becoming more common, but still affected only 10 in 1,000 marriages. Pres. Lyndon Johnson issued an executive order prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin, but gender would not be added until two years later.
The Supreme Court first struck down a law banning contraceptives for married couples in 1965. Three years before, Helen Gurley Brown had published "Sex and the Single Girl," the first book to openly discuss sex before marriage, a harbinger of what would come to be called the "Sexual Revolution," although her chapter on birth control was cut by the publishers. Sodomy was illegal in most states, and although the gay rights movement was taking fledgling steps with a small demonstration in Philadelphia, most homosexuals were firmly closeted. The idea of a man who liked to cook and clean house was considered inherently humorous.
Despite the vast changes in mores and manners since the 1960s, Director B.J. Jones‘ production of The Odd Couple seems surprisingly fresh. The familiar story of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, two friends whose recently failed marriages lead them to share an apartment, became a celebrated 1968 film and later, a TV series. It can’t help but be something of a period piece, however Jones opts to play up its ageless aspects, which are echoed in Jack Magaw‘s rather generic living-room set and Rachel Laritz‘s largely timeless costumes (although I wonder if, even in the ’60s, men wore ties to poker games).
Marc Grapey as the slobbish, laidback Oscar (stepping in for the ailing George Wendt) plays the straight man here, a foil for Tim Kazurinsky‘s finicky, fussy, neurotic Felix. In their interplay, the actors display delightful comic timing, and Simon’s witty one-liners still have plenty of bite. Elsewhere, the pace sometimes slows, particularly in the opening poker game, where Bruce Jarchow, William Dick, Phil Ridarelli and Peter DeFaria, as the buddies around the card table, have the irritable wisecracks down pat, but they remain relatively static.
Things pick up by the time Act 2 rolls around, and the scenes between Molly Glynn and Katherine Keberlein,as the twittering secretaries from upstairs, and Kazurinsky are almost painful in their hilarity. Kazurinsky’s facial expressions could carry the whole act by themselves.
The characters might no longer quite resonate as well as they did in the 1960s, but The Odd Couple remains a very funny play.
The Odd Couple continues through December 16th at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie (map), with performances Tuesdays: 7:30pm, Wednesdays 1 and 7:30pm, Thursdays 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 2:30 and 8pm, Sundays 2:30 and 7pm. Tickets are $25-$72, and are available by phone (847.673.6300) or online at Tickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More info at Northlight.org. (Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)
Photos by Michael Brosilow
behind the scenes
B.J. Jones (director); Jack Magaw (scenic designer); Rachel Laritz (costumes); JR Lederle (lighting designer); Andrew Hansen (sound designer); Laura D. Glenn (stage manager); Lynn Baber (casting director); Kristin Leahey (dramaturg); Brandy Reichenberger (asst. dramaturg); Cody Estle (asst. to the director); Kevin McDonald (stage management intern); Michael Brosilow (photos)