from THE WASHINGTON POST
At Theater J, a graceful and nuanced revival of classic ‘Odd Couple’
By Nelson Pressley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Let’s start with the Friday-night group of guys in “The Odd Couple,” that laughably jangly bunch at odds over poker, playing on a table strewn with food and beer. On one side, the cards are being shuffled by Murray the cop, practically one by one. On the other, an impatient buddy — Speed — clenches his fist and sucks his teeth in exasperation, waiting in vain for the deal.
Thus begins the symphony of camaraderie and agitation that is Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” which is being revived merrily, and with relish for the details of annoying masculinity, at Theater J.
Delaney Williams is a big teddy bear as Murray, sweet and dim, while Marcus Kyd’s gritted-teeth performance as Speed neatly sets up Williams’s plaintive punch lines. As Roy, Paul Morella is a 1960s vision of manly bland imagination (black trousers, white shirt, heavy glasses), while Michael Willis, as Vinnie, amusingly coos over sandwiches (such guy bliss!) with Williams.
Of course, any account of “The Odd Couple” ought to begin with The Guys, Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar. But there is something in the essentially gentle connectedness around the poker table that establishes the course of Jerry Whiddon’s funny and unusually attentive production. The pokes in the ribs are nudges, not jabs, and that’s the tone with Rick Foucheux and J. Fred Shiffman as Oscar and Felix. They’re eternally indulgent pals, even when they want to gouge each other’s eyes out.
That doesn’t mean that Whiddon and company have sobered up this great American comedy, which is as hard-wired as any in our culture. (Oscar’s the slob, Felix is unbearably neat and curiously handy in the kitchen, and both their wives have left them for reasons that become obvious as they drive each other nuts.) Simon keeps the gags coming, and this cast of accomplished D.C. actors is too savvy to let his primo punch lines go to waste.
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