One guy, Oscar, is a total slob. The other guy, Felix, is a neat freak. Oscar cares about what makes him happy. Felix worries about being worried. How the two got to be friends is beyond me, but watching the two work out their differences is sheer comedic genius. That, of course, is something Neil Simon is known for.
In this rendition of The Odd Couple, Cape Fear Regional Theatre Artistic Director Bo Thorp brought two New York actors down to carry the leading roles. She was then savvy enough to surround them with some of the CFRT’s local talent, and what she wound up with was a show that left the audience laughing out loud.
Dan Teachout, a long time member of New York City’s Drilling Company, brought the role of Oscar Madison to life. Teachout managed to do what many other actors probably couldn’t have. He didn’t try to mimic or repeat the role as reprised by Walter Matthau or Jack Klugman, instead he took it and made it his own. Yeah, there were some places where your mind flashed back to the original, but that has more to do with the integrity of script than Teachout’s performance. He made Oscar both sympathetic and lovable, not an easy task, and he did it flawlessly.
Evan Palazzo, also of New York, is an actor/musicians who has quite a few credits to his name. Palazzo put a perfect spin on Felix Ungar. He was just neurotic enough, without going over the top, which would have been fairly easy to do. Felix’s role is written for just that kind of performance. Think Tony Randall and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Even though the two actors have never played opposite each other before, there was a great chemistry between them. They played off of each other’s comedic timing in a very smooth manner. The tongue-in-cheek writing allowed the play to be funny in a sophisticated manner, but not so sophisticated that it went over your head. The two were a force to be reckoned with ... until you met the storm of the Sisters Costazuela.
Originally written as the Pigeon sisters, a set of English sisters who reside in the building, the Sisters Costazuela were an add on to a rewrite Simon did. Most people tend to stick to the original script, but in a flash of insight, Thorp made the switch to the rewritten script. It took some effort on the part of the actors, and it forced Nicki Hart and Rebekah Wilson, the two actors who brought the roles to life, to polish up their Spanish accents, but I think all of the effort was well worth it.
The Sisters Costazuela brought a different kind of comedy to the show, some of it a little sexual, but most of it from the misinterpretation of English customs and words. The girls, the hot upstairs chicks, that Oscar hopes to spend some time with, add a great deal of color to the smoke-filled poker game that set the stage for the majority of the play.
Having seen Hart in numerous productions, and most recently having worked with her on a very special project for the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School’s symposium, I have got to say, that without a doubt, her performance was .... priceless.
The rest of the cast, comprised of James Dean, Jonathan Flom, Scott Shelton and Paul Wolverton, all veterans of the CFRT, put in a stellar performance as always, but for a play about guys, the girls certainly managed to steal the show.
The play runs through May 10. You don’t want to miss it. For more information, visit the CFRT’s Web site at www.cfrt.org.