Friday, October 13, 2017

Laughing Stock: Odd as Ever; Ever Laughable

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 2:10 PM

Last year The Odd Couple enjoyed a short revival on TV. The original series ran from 1970 to 1975, spun from Neil Simon’s repeatedly revived play about two hilariously mismatched men whose friendship withstood the crucible of sharing an apartment. One was an obsessive nit-picker; the other a slob to the bone.

The play became a wildly popular movie, which I rented for $2.99 on YouTube on Tuesday, Oct. 3, for obvious reasons. I highly recommend it if you need to make the world go away, as most of us have in the last couple of weeks.

If you’re also avoiding being alone, you can see the play in a brief run that starts Saturday, Oct. 14, at Arizona Rose Theatre Company, a year-old pop-up venue in Tucson Mall. Visit for location, showtimes and reservations.

The Odd Couple is quaint in a way that reminds us of how smart the world could be in 1968, and how “woke” we are today in comparison. (The misogyny is pastel, innocent and fleeting.) The dress and manners of the era are charmingly constrained.

Yet the patented snappiness of Neil Simon’s comic dialog remains literally irresistible. If laughs are what you need, they will escape you despite your best efforts.

Arizona Rose’s General Manager Brandon Howell says the company feels ready to tackle what’s arguably Simon’s most enduring work. They’ve bulked up with popular productions of Simon’s Barefoot in the Park and Lost in Yonkers. “In fact, Howell says, “We’re going to bring that back in the Spring it was so popular last time.”

He says director Cynthia Howell, his mother and the family’s artistic director, has updated some of the most jarring anachronisms in the production’s sets and wardrobe She’s left the script almost entirely intact, though.

“That’s what we love about Neil Simon’s work,” Howell says. “His comic timing is so natural. Even in the most dramatic moments, he knows just the right time to break the tension.

“We tried to cast it so the character types fit the characters that Neil Simon wrote, Howell says. Christopher Younggren plays Felix; Lawrence Fuller plays Oscar. “Finding our Oscar was a challenge, but I think because they fit the character types so well, the relationship evolved out of the characters naturally.”

Other characters include Howell’s wife, Stephanie, as a Pigeon sister, continuing the Howell family’s long tradition of involvement since Howell’s parents, Terry and Cynthia, founded the company in 1986.

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