Presented by Adelaide Repertory Theatre (aka The Rep)
Reviewed 1 September 2016
The Adelaide Repertory Theatre’s latest production explores the combative relationship between improbable close mates, Oscar and Felix, who are complete opposites yet find themselves living together in the same small apartment. Oscar and Felix: A New Look at the Odd Couple is a humorous documentation of the inevitable clash between opposing personalities and their struggle to share the same space without killing each other.
After Felix is kicked out of home he seeks temporary sanctuary with his friend Oscar and chaos ensues. The play unfortunately never really convinces us how these two ever became friends in the first place as they seem irredeemably argumentative opposites. Oscar is a slovenly, sharp-talking, sarcastic sports writer who thrives in the freedom of his divorce and happily makes a mess of his bachelor pad, even serving his poker buddies chips from the floor. Felix is quite literally his complete opposite – a somewhat hapless drip and obsessive neat-freak who stresses more about his cooking than he does about getting laid (which hugely unsettles the sexually focussed Oscar to no end).
As much of the comedic nature of the play is based upon the argumentative interactions between care-free Oscar and neurotic Felix, it is unfortunate that many scenes begin to blend into one repetitive yelling match between the two flatmates. Luckily this tedium is relieved somewhat by the addition of the two spicy Spanish sisters from upstairs (the beautiful Megan Langford and Carol Lawton), combined with Oscar’s obvious sexual frustration. The American/Spanish language barrier and resulting confusion has the audience in stitches, as we witness Oscar’s failing attempts to impress the two beauties and Felix’s incompetence with basic conversation, let alone flirtation.
Actor Patrick Gibson convincingly portrays sulky, up-tight Felix and his anally retentive obsession with cleanliness. From his gangly body to his tentative movements and mannerisms and his whining, drawn out American accent, he cleverly captures the slightly effeminate demeanour of a character who has clearly struggled against the strong female personalities in his life. As we discover, his mother used to carry him under her arm while she cleaned, cooked and did everything in-between and his current wife who’s kicked him out of their apartment and who clearly wears the pants in their relationship.
Despite the set not changing throughout the performance, director Brian Knott has prevented it becoming a monotonous aspect of Oscar & Felix by using the entire stage as a broad theatrical palette coupled with a varied cast of eight energetic characters. The set is bright and busy with many appropriate props that accurately reflect their owner, Oscar’s, carefree bachelor-hood lifestyle (sports posters, transient cheap furniture and discarded food).
Although very much a buddy-comedy with male flavoured humour over food, beer, poker and of course women, this show is as enjoyable to women as it is men. If anything the humour may find greater popularity on a generational basis, being better received by an older audience as the play was originally written in the early 1960’s and updated in 2002.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Venue: Arts Theatre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 1 – 10 September
Duration: 2 hours (including 15 minute interval)
Tickets: $17 – $22
Bookings: online at http://adelaiderep.com/season-2016/oscar-felix