Who doesn’t love what is arguably Neil Simon’s most popular comedy of them all; The Odd Couple? Nobody doesn’t love it, that’s who. The Odd Couple is FUNNY! And The Newport Playhouse’s current production of The Odd Couple does not disappoint.
We all know the story. Hypochondriac, neat-freak moves in with incurable slob. Throw in the assorted kooky poker buddies, and the two giggly Pigeon sisters who’ve crossed the pond and wound up upstairs… and Voila! You’ve got a recipe for two hours of laughs.
Director John Faiola, who also plays Felix Unger, blocks the cast of eight with deft skill; no easy feat, when you consider the hilarious chase scenes, and group slapstick going on. He keeps the timing clipping, with Simon’s frenetic one-liners, which could easily get lost, if not properly paced.
Leading this talented cast, with virtually no time offstage, is Fred Davison who plays the loveable slob Oscar. Davison is probably the closest thing to Jack Klugman’s Oscar that I’ve seen on a live stage. He perfectly walks the line between cranky-pants Oscar, and sweet Oscar. His comedic timing and delivery are impeccable, and his physical comedy is extremely natural. The audience can’t help but laugh as Davison teeters back and forth between sympathy, and utter frustration with Felix’s sinus honks, and moving aches & pains.
Playing opposite Davison, is John Faiola as Felix. Faiola brings a new and interesting characterization to his Felix, which the entire world relates to Tony Randall. His sinus attacks, and hissy fits are simply hysterical, and when he meets the Pigeon sisters for an evening of romance, but instead they all end up balling their eyes out, Faiola shows us his comedic chops.
Playing the poker buddies are; (in alphabetical order) Tony Annicone as Speed, Anthony Capraro as Vinnie, Jim Carr as Murray, and Jim Killavey as Roy. Simon knew what he was doing when he wrote these characters. Each one has a distinct, and funny schtick. Vinnie’s the dope, Roy’s the complainer, Speed is the brain, and Murray is the stereotypical cop. Each one of these came across loud and clear on the Newport Playhouse stage. Capraro’s portrayal of dopey Vinnie was particularly endearing, as he explains to us that he’s heading to Miami on vacation … in July … Nevermind, see the play. It’s FUNNY!
It’s worth mentioning here that, a typical audience probably won’t notice how difficult the opening poker scene is for actors; with all the one word lines, and intentional interruptions. And that’s the way it should be – unnoticed by the audience. Annicone’s portrayal of Speed keeps everyone on point, and does so in his typical funny fashion.
This production pulled off that scene quite admirably. Hat’s off, fellas!
Rounding out the cast are, Henryce “Hen” Zannini - playing Gwendolyn Pigeon, and Kerri Ward - playing Cecily Pigeon. From the moment these two enter in their color coordinated outfits, the audience just knows things are not going to end well for Oscar. Wonderfully played by Zannini, and Ward, and playing off Faiola’s hysteria, what begins as an evening of romance, ends in their hysterical crying, and the audience’s hysterical laughter.
The Newport Playhouse has extended their run of Odd Couple by popular demand, and one can understand why. So, for an evening of delicious food, followed by one hour and fifty minutes of belly laughs, get yourself to the Newport Playhouse! You won’t be sorry!