Directed by Michael Menenden
At Raven Theatre Chicago
Classic Simon comedy is in good hands at Raven Theatre
The creative folks at Raven Theatre continually mount worthy productions of classic plays. Their latest is Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. Neil Simon is know as “the father of modern comedy” and his classic work , the1965 Tony Award winning play (Best Play), The Odd Couple is considered by many as the finest stage comedy ever written. I agree. The Odd Couple set the standard for comedy that has influenced all attempts at humor on TV and stage ever since. After 45 years, audiences are still impressed with (and laugh at) the manic physical work to augment Simon’s zinging script.
In a treatment to financial backers, Simon once described The Odd Couple as: “Two men–one divorced and one estranged and neither quite sure why their marriages fell apart–move in together to save money for alimony and suddenly discover they’re having the same conflicts and fights they had in their marriages.”
We meet the sloppy sports writer, Oscar Madison (Eric Roach) who can’t stand living alone after his divorce. Oscar lives like a pig. Felix Ungar (Jon Steinhagen) is the anal retentive, fastidious hypochondriac news writer recently estranged from his wife. When Felix moves into Oscar’s apartment, the lifestyle clashes begin. The two drive each other and their poker playing buddies crazy in a series of hilarious scenes. Simon’s comedy brilliance wins us early. And carries us throughout
Set Designer Ray Tolar uses the large stage at Raven Theatre to aptly depict a 60’s Manhattan 8 room apartment. Simon populates this comedy with colorful characters from Murray, the cop (Larry Carani); Roy, the accountant (Greg Caldwell); Vinnie, the wimpy husband (Greg Kolack); and “Speed,” the curmudgeon (Anthony Tournis).
The Odd Couple is one funny show that still can make audiences laugh. In the hands of a dedicated ensemble, director Menendian encourages physical movement to add depth and laughs to the rich comedy. We see all the players running around like wild men with hints of farce and burlesque.
The cast respects the material as they employ their comic skills especially with their razor sharp timing to reach new levels of humor and pathos as each struggles to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the others. Eric Roach’s Oscar presents the machismo of a cigar smoking sports writer with a good heart Jon Steinhagen plays Felix, the wacky fusspot with extreme OC mannerisms with a most truthful and riveting comic turn. Steinhagen and Roach work off each other effectively garnering all the rich humor Simon designed. Raven Theatre is a most reliable presenter of classic theatre and their production of The Odd Couple would make Neil Simon smile. We all need a dose of brilliant comedy once in a while. This production contains a boat load of laughs.
At Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark, Chicago, IL, call773-338-2177, www.raventheatre.com, tickets $25 – $30,Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission.