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Review Wed May 26 2010

Review: The Odd Couple @ Raven Theatre Company

Ladle-1.jpg

Erich Roach and Jon Steinhagen as Oscar and Felix, photo by Dean LaPrairie.

Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison are such an integral part of our cultural shorthand that most of us can't remember a time before they were brought to life in Neil Simon's 1965 play The Odd Couple. Chicago's own MeTV began broadcasting reruns of the 1970's sitcom of the same name a little over a year ago, and ever since I've been staying up too late to watch Jack Klugman and Tony Randall cohabit in their impossibly large and affordable New York apartment.

Raven Theatre Company, known for producing classic American theater, has brought The Odd Couple back to the stage for an eight week run. The play's vintage comes through in the set design and costuming, and in references to everyday expenses: a pack of cigarettes costs less than a dollar; cooking dinner for four instead of going out to a restaurant yields a savings of $30 to $40; and Felix's share of the rent is $120 a month. These nuggets remind the audience that they are watching a piece of cultural history, but the storyline of two divorced men splitting rent is one that could have been written yesterday.

Eric Roach's portrayal of Oscar is at once evocative of Jack Klugman and completely his own. There are lines of dialogue and physical movements that Roach delivers in such Klugmanesque fashion (can a clap be evocative?) that at times it seemed the 88 year-old actor was being channeled into the room. Jon Steinhagen's finicky, neurotic and lovable turn as Felix Ungar is the perfect foil to Roach's boisterous, cigar smoking sports nut. The two actors have a timing and chemistry that draws the audience in, and holds their attention throughout the piece. Some of the best moments come in the second act, in a stretch of wordless action that expresses the frustrations of life with a roommate whose habits don't support your own. As much as Felix and Oscar grate on each others nerves, their bonds of friendship are strong, and their connection to each other comes across as genuine.

With a strong supporting cast that includes Brigitte Ditmars and Liz Fletcher as the British sisters Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon, Larry Carini as Murray the cop, Greg Caldwell as Roy, Anthony Tournis as the irascible Speed, and Greg Kolack as the nebbish Vinny, the play's two acts unfold seamlessly. There will be time to catch reruns on late night television, but this production will only be around for a little while; catch it while you can. The Odd Couple runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 3 (no show July 4). For tickets and information call 773-338-2177 or visit Raven Theatre Company.

 
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Steve / May 27, 2010 6:24 PM

Jack Klugman just turned 88, not 78.

JHP / May 27, 2010 6:47 PM

Oops! Thanks, clearly I can't subtract.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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