Jim Floyd shines as messy Oscar in Elliott Raines’ production of the Neil Simon classic
During the first scene of “The Odd Couple” at the Players Centre on Wednesday night, I realized it had been quite a few years since I last saw one of Neil Simon’s early plays and heard that rat-a-tat-tat rhythm of jokes that signified the definitive style of popular comedy during the 20th century.
It has been at least a dozen years since “The Odd Couple,” arguably the late playwright’s best and most popular show, was last staged in the area. It’s fun to once again watch the antics of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, their poker buddies and the daffy, giggling Pigeon sisters, who fill this play about mismatched roommates struggling to get along.
There are laughs to be had, though I found myself laughing most at the dynamic, exasperated and explosive performance of Jim Floyd as Oscar in Elliott Raines’ well-paced production.
Floyd has become a real highlight at the Players in the last couple of years with fine and varied roles in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” and “The Price.” But he may be at his best as the slovenly Oscar, who has been living a carefree life in his now-messy apartment since his divorce.
Things change when he agrees to let his despondent best friend, Felix, move in after he is thrown out by his wife. Oscar quickly learns why his friend is headed for a divorce as he deals with the fussy Felix cleaning up, stressing over meals and acting like a frustrated spouse when Oscar doesn’t come home as expected.
It becomes the story of a different kind of marriage of two contrasting personalities trying to find a middle ground when neither wants to budge.
Raines’ also brings out the heart, because we need to see how, despite the frustrations, that these two men care about one another and are good for each other.
Everything about Floyd’s performance comes from a place of honesty and reality. After just a week or so of them living together, you can sense the irritation Oscar is feeling with his glares and eye rolls. Everything Felix does, from wiping up stray cigar ashes to placing coasters to avoid annoying rings, is getting to Oscar. From beneath the brim of his ever-present baseball cap, Floyd’s Oscar looks like he’s about to explode or have a heart attack.
He’s paired with Dylan H. Jones, who conveys Felix’s annoying touches with a friendly but detached aura. Some of his affectations, like the wild honking sounds he makes to clear his sinuses or the way he wields a ladle, come off as more of a put-on than a natural, if irritating, habit.
There’s a nice sense of camaraderie about the weekly poker games with their buddies played by Paul Hutchison as Speed, Philip Troyer as Roy, Jason Macumber as Vinny and Allen Kretschmar as Murray, the warmhearted cop.
The energy level spikes with the arrival of the Pigeon sisters, two fun-loving Brits looking for a good time on the most awkward date night with Felix and Oscar. Carrie McQueen as Gwendolyn and Lauren Ward as Cecily laugh and cackle with great spirit (though sometimes a little too intensely) as they try to make the best of a sometimes uncomfortable situation, with laughs giving way to tears.
The production is staged on an effective if drab set by Jeffrey Weber, and the costumes by Tim Beltley suit the characters.
Many of the cast members have become part of the ensemble of Raines’ Two Chairs Theatre Company, which has focused on more serious dramas by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. But the director brings the same kind of dedication to the reality of even outrageous situations, which is essential to creating believable comedy and helping you to laugh easily.