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Wednesday, October 19,2011

Pure puffball

Lively actors can’t hide the fact that ‘Odd Couple’ is quaint and antiquated

by Mary C. Cusack

Starlight Dinner Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s
“The Odd Couple” has good production values and some fine performances,
yet the overall quality of the production is uneven.


The major shortcomings can be attributed to the script.
Simon had a flair for creating memorable characters who were
contemporary for their time, and he skillfully skewered social mores,
shining a light on changing gender and familial roles. 


Unfortunately, what was cutting-edge social commentary in the 1960s is now simply quaint and antiquated.


Furthermore, the nostalgia value is lessened by the
pacing of the script, which gets bogged down in redundant conversations
and arguments.


There are still a few chuckles left in Simon’s script,
but considering that one of the biggest ones involves a
misunderstanding over the letters “F.U.,” the dialogue is too simple
for modern audiences raised on the works of Quentin Tarantino, David
Mamet and Aaron Sorkin.


It is a daunting task to take on such iconic roles as
Oscar and Felix, whether one prefers the cinematic pairing of Walter
Matthau and Jack Lemmon or the television couple of Jack Klugman and
Tony Randall. 


The easier task goes to the slob Oscar, who has the benefit of playing for the broad laughs.  Jack Dowd is a natural pick for the role and delivers a solid performance.


It is interesting that Dowd warms up to the role after
doffing the iconic baseball cap, and really hits his stride as Oscar
prepares for a double-date with neighbors Gwendolyn and Cecily Pigeon
(Charlotte Ruppert and Angela Dill, respectively).  As Dowd prances around, slapping on Old Spice and crooning classic love songs, he owns the stage.


Oscar is definitely the better half of this couple, which makes the role of Felix (Chris Klaver) the more difficult one.  The Felix of the play is not the Felix most people remember from the television series.  This Felix is much more of an intolerable, needy, fussbudget hypochondriac. 


The challenge is to make him the least bit relatable so
that the audience can feel some amount of empathy for him. Yet Klaver’s
performance, while stylized, is so gratingly cloying and pathetic that
all empathy goes to Oscar. Klaver does, however, deliver the best
pratfall of the local theater season.


The most brilliant performances belong to Ruppert and Dill, the Pigeon sisters.  They command the stage with their bright costumes, charming Cockney accents and sunny personalities. 


Ruppert and Dill have the luxury of having the best dialogue, rife with double-entendres, which they play to the hilt.


Director Linda Granger continues the Starlight tradition
of maximizing the facilities of the theater’s home in the cafeteria of
the Waverly East Intermediate School.


Bill Woodland’s set, Jim Lorenz’s lighting, and the
technical staff’s props are spot-on for creating the ambience of a 1965
Manhattan apartment. The attention to detail is thorough, from the
Pabst Blue Ribbon cans and Playboy magazines to the bachelor record
collection selected for maximum seduction value.




‘The Odd Couple’


Through Oct. 22


Starlight Dinner Theatre


Waverly East Middle School, 3131 W. Michigan Ave., Lansing


Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m., with the
show starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $33 for dinner and
show; $28 for seniors and students with valid ID


$15 for show only


(517) 243-6040 


www.starlightdinnertheatre.com

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