Review by Kerry Cooper
Why mess with perfection? Neil Simon wrote his smash hit, The Odd Couple in 1965. A story of flawed friendships, it became a huge hit on Broadway and later as a movie and television series. In 2002 Simon reworked his masterpiece to produce an updated version, Oscar and Felix.
After Felix is booted out of his home by his wife Frances he takes up residence with his friend Oscar. In what can be best described as a clash of personalities, what should follow is a hilarious battle of wills; however this rewrite has taken out a lot of the charm. Clean-freak Felix is supposed to be aghast at the state of his new living arrangements, but the truth is, in this production, it was not nearly filthy enough to make Felix’s influence noticeable.
Peter Rossi is treading the boards for the first time as Oscar and should be applauded for his tackling of the enormous amount of dialogue. Oscar’s growing frustration was well timed and I see him settling into the role as the season progresses. Felix (Patrick Gibson) seemed tentative at first, but gradually became annoyingly neurotic.
Oscar’s poker pals almost seem like an after-thought, with much of their dialogue having no real impact on the plot. This is no fault of the actors and considering the play’s issues, they each held their individual characterisations well.
Giving a lift to act two were the Spanish sisters from the upstairs apartment; Hoolya (Megan Langford) and Ynez (Carol Lawton) looked fabulous and were a welcomed intrusion, but it soon became apparent that if you were not in the first ten rows you were going to find it hard to hear them. Unfortunately this meant we lost some hilarious one-liners. Attention to volume and diction will fix this quickly.
Set design by Lisa Kennewell is well thought through and offers up more than enough space for the actors.
This play explores male relationships but in this production the bond that forms between Oscar and Felix as the weeks pass is not entirely believable by the finale. Key dialogue omitted from the original leaves us guessing whether each man has had a positive influence on the other.
Kudos must be given to The Rep for providing the vehicle for new and aspiring talent to have a go, both on and off stage. With the original Odd Couple never in need of improvement, they and Director Brian Knott may have fared better with that script.