“Life goes on, even for those of us who are divorced, broke, and sloppy.”
“The Odd Couple,” is one of Neil Simon’s funniest plays, even after almost 50 years since it first appeared on Broadway. Now it’s coming to our town, by way of the Central Kentucky Community Theatre to the Opera House in Springfield.
It’s full of snappy one-liners about a recently divorced slob, Oscar Madison (Jerry Effner), and his persnickety clean-freak friend, Felix Ungar (Gary White). During the weekly poker game at Oscar’s apartment, Felix shows up, despondent: His wife is divorcing him. By the end of the first act (in which all the characters are angry and flustered with one another), Felix is moving in with Oscar.
He wreaks havoc on Oscar’s slovenly lifestyle, constantly cleaning up and insisting the poker guys use coasters. Oscar’s annoyance at Felix’s obsessive-compulsiveness reaches the boiling point when British ex-patriots Gwen (Lucinda Effner) and Cecily (Erika Campbell) come over for dinner, and all Felix can do is weep about his ex-wife.
Gary White is a reporter on Channel 6 and is really, really good as Felix in this play. You can tell he’s had a lot of time in front of a camera. He’ll have you rolling in the aisles with his rendering of our favorite nutcase. Jerry, Lucinda, and Erika have done numerous plays and provide the “heavy lifting” with their background in theater.
But the guys you really want to watch are three locals (and they come from around here, too) and a fellow from Hodgenville. I’m talking about the fellows playing Roy (Hal Goode), Speed (John Isaacs), Murray (Brad Redmon) and Vinnie (Gordon Thomas).
Everybody knows Hal from the local radio station, Dr. John Isaacs from pulling all those teeth, and Brad because he’s Brad. You might not know Gordon, as he comes from Hodgenville, but he seems to be a Washington County man by choice, if not birth. He comes here a bunch as a member of the Kentucky Chorus and was in “The Little Shop of Horrrors” production.
The main activities of these four guys in the play is to sit around the stage and drink beer, play poker, smoke cigars, eat chips, and talk. The obvious question most people want to know is if you have to spend a bunch of time trying to learn how to do this for the play. Strangely enough Hal, John and Brad said it didn’t take all that much time to learn their parts. I guess they’re just quick studies.
Gordon begged to differ, and said it actually took him quite a bit of effort to get into character for this play. I asked Gordon what he did for a living, and he said he was the church office manager at the Hodgenville United Methodist Church. That explained so much.
Now, the next question I had to ask was, “Do you guys have any prior acting experience?”
Hal said, “I was in Mrs. Amanda Hourigan’s stage production in the 2nd grade.”
Silence reigned for a second, and we all waited for the weight of that revelation to sink in.
I responded by saying, “You know what Hal? They still talk about it down at Hardee’s every now and then.”
I asked them how they got into doing the play. John said he’d been trying to get his kids into theater, and they asked him why he didn’t do it himself. So, John called their bluff (that’s a good poker term to use in the play, guys) and decided to do some theater. He wanted some company in this entrance to acting and talked Hal into coming into the play when they bumped into each other at the courthouse. Hal and John walked out of the courthouse and ran into Brad. Hal said, “Hey, Brad, we’re playing poker at the Opera House next week with beer and chips. You in?” Brad said “Yeah!” It was only later that Brad found out he was in a play, which left him bitterly disappointed in the outcome. Just kidding. As for Gordon, he was asked to be in the play.
The one thing I have to say is this was one of the more fun interviews that I’ve done. It was such a jolly group and the “beer” was only tea on the set, so I know it was a natural high. They just seemed to enjoy the camaraderie of the theater. What made it more interesting was seeing these old sports jocks and radio announcers having so much fun in doing something as totally different as acting. Gordon said it all for the guys when I asked what everyone got out of this. He said, “Friendships.”
I guess that’s it.
You have to come and see “The Odd Couple.” The play will be performed at the Opera House on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4-5, and 11-12, at 7 p.m., and on Sunday Feb. 6th and 13, at 2 p.m., as directed by Scott Fattizzi.
See you there!