“The Odd Couple,” Neil Simon classic comedy, opens the Visalia Players’ 63rd season of providing live theatre to the community. Since The Odd Couple opened in 1965, became a movie in 1968, and was a successful TV series in the 1970s, many younger readers may not be familiar with its quintessential theme: the hilarity and complexity of relationships.
Generally roommates have commonalities (plural). For Felix Ungar (Henry Ralston) and Oscar Madison (John Olmos), the shared circumstance (singular) is divorce. Otherwise, they couldn’t be more different. Felix has a compulsion for neatness and order. According to Ralston, “The role of Felix is perfect. It is me! Very neurotic!”
Oscar on the other hand is slovenly. “He smokes, drinks, gambles, and just doesn’t care about anything,” comments Olmos. He and his poker playing buddies –Murray (Art Simon), Roy (Mike Nelson), Speed (Don Ajluni), and Vinnie (David Peden) – have a great time playing poker and poking fun at Felix. Nelson noted that one of his favorite lines is “He washed the cards!”
Added to the mix are the upstairs neighbors, a couple of sisters, one a divorcee, the other a widow — Cecily (Marguerite Koster) and Gwendolyn (Susan Mathews).
When asked how a play from the 1960s might be relevant today, Koster replied, “because it’s about relationships. We add a bit of spice to it.” Mathews added, “Everyone is able to relate to friendships, couples, and things you would like to say but don’t. You’ll be laughing hysterically.”
When asked about the believability of the characters, Olmos noted “Leeni (Director Mitchell) asks that we tell her about our character and how our character relates to others in the play. The exercise helps characterization.” Olmos continued, “I’m pulling from the adults I knew in the 60s; how they acted; the manners they had.” Ajluni commented “If the show is well cast, and the director lets you run with it, you are going to have a good show.”
Mitchell believes that the play is funnier than the movie. “The play opens with a poker game accompanied by hilarious remarks. The tone for comedy is immediately set. I love doing comedies. I can make them my own. Our main focus is capturing the humor and the essence of the characters.”
Mitchell and her costume crew are ensuring that the set decoration and the costumes set the period for the play.
Peden summed up the views of the cast, “Anyone who comes should be prepared to have a fun evening. Who doesn’t need a laugh once in awhile?”
“The Odd Couple” runs for three weekends at the Ice House Theatre at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia. Evening performances are at 7:30pm on 8/2, 8/3, 8/9, 8/10, 8/16, and 8/17, and matinees are at 2pm on 8/4, 8/11, and 8/18. To purchase tickets go to the Visalia Players’ website at www.visaliaplayers.org, their Facebook page “Visalia Community Players”, or call 734-3900.