Matt Byrne Media's The Odd Couple was the just the right fit for a post-COVID Saturday night in the atmospheric Holden Street Studio Theatre.
The Odd Couple was much like what I remember of the 1968 film with Jack Lemmon and Water Matthau, based on the Tony award-winning 1965 Neil Simon play.
Oscar Madison, played by producer/director Matt Byrne, is a recently divorced sportswriter who hosts the weekly Friday night poker game. When one of the crew, Felix Unger, performed by David Grybowski, doesn't show up until very late, the guys get seriously worried about him. When he does finally arrive, they find he's suicidal. Oscar asks him to stay with him for a few days so that the worst of the emotional turmoil of being walked out on by his wife will pass.
This sets up the hilarious situation of finicky, hypochondriac Felix sharing easy-going Oscar's disorganised Manhattan apartment in which Felix can't help but want to straighten things out.
The few days drags into a few weeks and Oscar gets desperate for some female company. He arranges a double date with two lovely British girls, the Pigeon sisters, Cecily and Gwendolyn, who live in the same apartment block. The much anticipated evening is derailed by Felix's misery.
This comedy is based on real experiences of divorced men living together and the hilarity of the situation as well as their misery at seeing themselves as failures as husbands and fathers. At the time this play was written, it would have been quite confronting for Adelaide audiences.
Holden Street Theatres, Hindmarsh
The two strong leads are well supported by an experienced ensemble of poker mates comprising Timothy Cousins as Murray, Gavin Cianci as Speed, Frank Cwiertniak as Roy and Russell Ford as Vinnie.
In addition, Bec Mason (Gwendolyn) and Lauren Weber (Cecily) did a great job in the supporting roles of the Pigeon sisters. I did, however, find these two superficial characters quite grating. I'm sure that these were true to Simon's play, but I was not comfortable with the representation of women like this today. I guess that's the challenge you face as a director if you mount a play written 55 years ago.
The simple, realistic set and costuming were true to the setting and the location of the small Studio theatre of the Holden Street Theatres in front of a small audience worked well.
This is an entertaining evening, best suited to an audience who would have seen the movie or the TV series when they were originally released.
COVID seating and distancing was appropriately applied by MBM and Holden Street Theatres. It was great to see live theatre back in Adelaide.