REVIEW: Classic play The Odd Couple modernized but retains all humour

The Odd Couple never fails to intrigue audiences with its observations of human nature and the desire to see unlikely relationships flourish. After all, every audience is full of odd couples.

In Drayton Entertainment’s version of The Odd Couple, the formula prevails and the ­ enjoys an evening of laughter and solace. The disparity be­tween a cohabiting slob and neat freak is overcome by deep and abiding friendship. In this version, that friendship is not totally convincing, but has just  enough to make the perform­ance work well.

Playwright Neil Simon made a prolific career scripting of human nature and relation­ships. In this play and others such as California Suite and Barefoot in the Park there are no bells and whistles, no grand settings, only the quirks and humour such as Simon had observed in two divorced men that he knew.

Starting with a run on Broadway in 1965 starring Walter Matthau and later Jack Klugman as Oscar, and Art Carney as Felix, the play was also adapted to a movie starring Matthau, with Jack Lemmon as Felix. That success in turn prompted the 1970-1975 TV series starring Tony Randall as Felix and Klugman as Oscar. But those famous faces fade out of mind as the play progresses. The classic has been roughly modernized to include sui­cide text messages and Rachel Rae; but an alimony-drain­ed, pitiful men on their own premise cannot be side­stepped.

David Ludwig is terrific as Oscar Madison, a man’s man who has been slung out by his wife and left to his own domestic devices. His New York City accent is bang on and greatly adds to the verisimi­litude. Ludwig’s down to earth demeanour and slovenly though big hearted ways are well captured in his perform­ance. His compassion for his friend and fellow media writer seems based more on pity.

Rob McClure plays the knit picking and eccentric Felix Un­ger with a great deal of an­noying authenticity. He is like a fluttering bird pecking at strewn items throughout the apartment. His wife had en­dured his ways for 12 years and then asked him to fly the coop. The audience knows why – and so does Oscar -who took him under wing anyway.

Karen Sweet and Kristin Galer are the Pigeon Sisters who venture from their apart­ment upstairs to partake of a fowl dinner with Oscar and Felix. Though bordering on the farcical with their over the top British accents and facial con­tortions they nonetheless sec­ure some of the biggest laughs of the evening as they commis­erate with Felix.

The show begins with Os­car’s poker buddies who ven­ture a "green or brown" sand­wich as they play poker amidst the debris. Sal Scozzari is the loveable, rotund but dexter­ous, Bronx accented Murray the Cop. Lee MacDougall as Vinnie, Richard Quesnel as Speed, and Nicholas Rice as Roy, Oscar’s accountant are all comfortable in their roles and well liked familiar faces on the Drayton Entertainment scene.

Adam Furfaro directed the performance with a lot of ex­perience behind him in such hits as The Drawer Boy and The Buddy Holly Story.

The set by Stephen Degen­stein is a comfortably messy apartment to begin with, down to the strewn about New York Times. The fastest stage hands in the west tidy the place be­tween scenes as Felix works his wiles on the bachelor pad.

The Odd Couple plays  through June 20. For tickets call  519-638-5555 or toll free at 1-888-449-4463.For more infor­ma­tion visit www.dray­tonfes­tival­