Walter Mencken 9:21 p.m., Oct. 20
The Odd Couple at Sullivan Players
Oscar Madison, slob, eats "cold cuts for breakfast." Felix Ungar, control freak, "wears a seatbelt at the drive-in movie." Neil Simon's contrary duo has become part of our national lore.
And the 1965 comedy's still bangs out the one-liners — as when Felix tells the Pigeon sisters he writes the news for CBS, and one asks, "Oh, where do you get your ideas?"
The Sullivan Players' production, at Swedenborg Hall, has one big plus, but also several misses and questionable choices.
The plus is Michael Bova. This talented actor makes Oscar Madison a human pigpen with a New Yawk accent. He's naturally excessive: eating, drinking, or firing a plate of linguini at the kitchen wall. But beneath the bull, Bova layers in a china shop: a caring person slowly acquainting himself with himself. This nicely crafted, always funny performance literally holds the uneven production together.
As Felix, to whom cleanliness is godliness, Philip John's choices make him more daffy than controlling. These create a wavering veneer. But above all else, Felix is exact, the epitome of precision. The night I caught the show, John also sped through his lines as if late for another engagement. He threw away jokes and opportunities for loaded reactions.
Anne Sermon and J C Hamby are just right as the Pidgeon sisters, Cecily and Gwendolyn (the names from Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest) — girls, as Cyndi Lauper sang, who "just want to have fun."
Simon opens Odd Couple with one of his best intro's: a Friday night poker scene that sets the stage (and reveals Mike Esposito's nicely detailed set) and machine guns the audience with laughs. But apparently it's not sure-fire. Only two of the four actors in the Sullivan production knew where the jokes are and actually listened to each other. The timing, as a result, was haywire.
Lost, among others, is a keeper: as Felix serves a drink, he asks one of the card-players "where's your coaster?" The man replies, "I think I bet it."