Presented by Matt Byrne Media
Reviewed 5th November 2020
The Odd Couple has hit the stage at the Holden Street Theatres in a local production of the 1965 Broadway classic.
Originally written by Neil Simon, The Odd Couple, centres on divorcees Felix Ungar (David Grybowski) and Oscar Madison (Matt Byrne) who, due to their individual circumstances, end up living together in Oscar’s eight bedroom New York apartment.
As the show’s name implies, the friends living together are at odds. Felix is tidy, loves cooking and making everything last, whereas Oscar appears happy in filth, with broken down appliances and trash plastered across the apartment. The success of the original play and its role as a source material can be seen in the many film and television adaptations that have been released over the decades.
The play opens in the smoky setting of the weekly poker night at Oscar’s place where Murray (Timothy Cousins), Roy (Frank Cwiertniak), Speed (Gavin Cianci), and Vinnie (Russell Ford) gamble the evening away. Through their conversation we receive insight into their thoughts on relationships, from Murray’s dismissive attitude amongst male friends but affectionate behaviour directly toward his wife, to Oscar’s dismissal of marriage now after a divorce.
Concern about Felix arises through a series of phone calls where the friends find out he is recently separated and thus begins their concern for his welfare. Drama and comedy ensue upon Felix’s stumbling arrival at Oscar’s. The friends talk him down but leave him to Oscar who invites Felix to stay with him.
The set evolves from a trashed bachelor pad to a neat and overly sensible apartment. The attention to detail on the setting is great and the transitions smooth. Names of former wives quietly disappear from view, crumbs and boxes on the table are taken away, and additions are made even for props such as small coasters and clean ashtrays.
Oscar tries to mix things up and help Felix move on by suggesting a double date with their British upstairs neighbours, Cecily (Lauren Weber) and Gwendolyn (Bec Mason). The night hilariously and swiftly descends from the fun Oscar wants and into an emotional session. This tips Oscar over the edge and he later kicks Felix out of his apartment but the change between the characters is visible to the poker buddies when they return for their usual game.
The cast do a wonderful job with their characters. The mates carry the comfortability of friends who have known each other for years while still playing with the quirks of their individual characters. The banter between them all was speedy and enjoyable to watch. The accents did slip here and there, slightly altering the impact of some quick lines within the witty writing. Mason and Weber in their characters do an excellent role in breaking the blokey, American setting to provide contrast in the comedy.
The production and staging in the Studio at Holden Street Theatres neatly connect into the sitcom stylings. The use and movement through the entirety of the space create a more engaging experience.
The Odd Couple, co-directed by Byrne and Rose Vallen, is a playful show with quick wordplay, backed by strong performances and plenty of quirks and flamboyance. It runs at The Studio at Holden Street Theatres until the 28th November.
Reviewed by Alex Dunkin
Venue: The Studio, Holden Street Theatres, Thebarton
Season: 4th-28th November 2020
Duration: 2 hours 30 mins including interval