Neil Simon’s hilarious The Odd Couple, with the famously mismatched bachelor roommates, Oscar and Felix, was recently on stage at the ARTfactory in Manassas. The classic comedy is a guaranteed laugh-fest with Simon’s witty and sharp dialogue between two lovable losers.
The Kellar Family Theater is a quaint space but was utilized well by Director and Set Designer Ted Ballard. The entirety of the show takes place inside Oscar’s apartment, which was realistically portrayed using a false wall, with a main door and hallway entrances to the kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms.
For those unfamiliar, the show opens with Oscar Madison (Jason Foster) hosting a weekly poker game with his buddies, Murray (Jason Paul Curtis), Vinnie (Curtis Lewis), Speed (Rae Ehlen), and Roy (Ricardo Padilla). But missing from their usual group is Felix Ungar (Matt Einhorn).
Foster’s Oscar was a great fit for the smartass sports writer, whose recent divorce has left him fending for himself, and failing with warm beer, stale food, and a sloppy home. Oscar is essentially an overgrown child who has never learned to take care of himself and is horrible at managing money, as proven by his constant requests for the boys to front him poker funds and a call from his ex, Blanche, asking about four months of missing alimony.
The group learns that Felix and his wife, Francis, have split and Felix has been missing since Francis gave him the news. He eventually shows up for the game, but is depressed and distracted as he wanders around the apartment listlessly. His friends are concerned by his suicidal mutterings, so to ensure Felix is not left alone, Oscar suggests the two new bachelors become roommates.
The initial idea seems a good one, to help with cost, cleaning, and company. And Einhorn as Felix plays up the character’s incessant neediness and obsessive cleanliness. But contrasted with Oscar’s slovenly, lackadaisical attitude, it doesn’t take long for the pairing to sour, and the men start to bicker like an old married couple.
Cue the tongue-sparring scenes that make Simon’s work so enjoyable. Foster and Einhorn work well together, though at times the pacing lagged and certain comedic moments were lost. But overall the unfortunate duo has a good chemistry that has the audience laughing at them, with them, and for them.
Hoping for a change in their monotonous, single lives, Oscar wants to arrange a double date with the Pigeon sisters, who live in the same building and are also glaringly single (one a widow and one a divorcee). Felix is hesitant but Oscar ultimately invites the ladies to dine with them at his apartment.
In true Oscar style, he comes home for dinner an hour late to a perturbed Felix. Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon (Colleen Close-Young and Becky Farris) show up and exude a flirtatious desperation that flies completely over Felix’s head. And Oscar loses his cool when Felix turns the happy conversation into a crying fest over lost loves and ruined relationships.
The show is a fun, fast-paced comedy and ARTfactory’s ensemble does a good job hitting all manic highs and tumultuous lows. With flying plates of spaghetti and a demonstration of the dangers of vacuuming, Einhorn and Foster execute to much applause the physical comedy in what could be called the final brawl between Felix and Oscar.
Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple is a sure comedic win with audiences, and ARTfactory has done a lovely job mounting this production. The audience was energetic and responsive and the cast was engaging. Jason Paul Curtis as Murray, the police-officer poker buddy, was especially enjoyable with a voice and cadence reminiscent of Eddie Albert in Roman Holiday.
ARTfactory has closed out a good run of Neil Simon’s classic and deserves kudos on a job well done. Their professionalism and dedication promise more good things to come in future productions.
Running Time: Two and a half hours, with one 10-minute intermission.
COVID Safety: ARTfactory is following CDC guidelines and all local and state mandates. Our productions are following local theater COVID protocols.
Cast: Vinnie (Curtis Lewis), Murray (Jason Paul Curtis), Speed (Rae Ehlen), Roy (Ricardo Padilla), Oscar Madison (Jason Foster), Felix Unger (Matt Einhorn), Cicily Pigeon (Colleen Close-Young), Gwendolyn Pigeon (Becky Farris)
Production Team: Director (Ted Ballard), Stage Manager (Erin DeCaprio), Costume Designer (Andrea Oswald), Sound Designer (Erin DeCaprio), Light Designer (Kimberly Kemp), Set Construction (Ted Ballard), Props (Ted Ballard)