Saturday, October 15, 2011

(No.175) Soulpepper's "The Odd Couple"

A well known and often performed American comedy is playing in Toronto through Nov. 22: the Soulpepper Theatre Company's production of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple". It is presented at one of Soulpepper's two theatres at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery Historic District.

The Soulpepper Theatre Company was founded in Toronto in 1998 by 12 artists. It has presented a variety of plays, some mainstream, many not. Albert Schultz, one of the founding actors, has been its artistic director since its beginning. It moved into its permanent quarters at the Young Centre in 2005 and is today a mainstay of the theatre in Toronto.

Soulpepper plays have provided Pat and me with a number of enjoyable evenings in the theatre. One that comes immediately to mind is their presentation of Joe Orton's black comedy "Loot" (see column No. 42 on www.RickardsRead.com, posted July 30,2009).

A challenge of sorts in doing "The Odd Couple" is to find something fresh or new in this 1965 hit Broadway play, one that went on to become a popular 1968 movie starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau and a still more popular television series (1970-75) with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.

Any theatre audience will include many who are familiar with the characters and the premise of the plot. They tend to bring to it both preconceptions and expectations, sometimes based on the movie and/or the series rather than Simon's play.

The original Broadway production of The Odd Couple starred Walter Matthau and Art Carney. The play has been revived many times since, including a production starring Matthau and Tony Randall in a 3 month run at the Theatre Royal in London.

The 'odd couple' in this Soulpepper production are the company's artistic director Albert Schultz as the slob Oscar Madison who takes into his apartment (from which his wife and family have recently departed) the obsessively neat Felix Ungar (who has been ejected from his home by his wife). Felix, a fiercely active cook and housekeeper, is played by Diego Matamoros. They both wear their roles like tailor-made suits; they fit beautifully.

The Odd Couple's director is Stuart Hughes, an actor and (like Schultz, Matamoros and several other members of the cast) a founding member of Soulpepper. He has long associations with most of the eight person cast, as do they with each other -- and it shows. The familiarity supports the play's relationships on stage.

In spite of the challenge of getting laughs from audience members who may already know the laugh lines, the Soulpepper cast carry it off well. The audience clearly enjoyed the play, as did we.

by Alastair Rickard

for ticket information: www.soulpepper.ca or box office 416-866-8666

*******************************

email: Alastair.Rickard@sympatico.ca

blog: www.RickardsRead.com

to set a 'Google alert' for new columns as they are posted on RickardsRead.com, go to:
www.google.com/alerts