By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Few works in the American theatrical canon are as identifiable as “The Odd Couple.”
The comedy about two divorced middle-aged men — one a slovenly sportswriter, the other a neurotic, neat-freak newswriter — driving each other crazy in a small Manhattan apartment, had a two-year run on Broadway in the 1960s, and was adapted into a highly successful film and long-running TV sitcom.
Gallery Theater’s production of the Neil Simon classic opens tonight at the East Hawaii Cultural Center and runs each Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. through Feb. 9. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 students and seniors, and are available at EHCC, 141 Kalakaua St. Call 961-5711 to order by phone or for more information.
The show was originally set to begin in the fall, but one of the two original leads left town to take a job elsewhere, forcing director Arval Shipley to re-schedule and to re-cast the role of Felix Ungar. Despite that, he said the timing is right for a local production of “The Odd Couple.”
“It hasn’t been done here in, like, 14 years, and I’ve found that if you do a show people haven’t heard of, they won’t come to see it,” he said. “‘The Odd Couple’ is Neil Simon’s best story ever. I don’t know how many times we’ve gone through it in rehearsal, but there are places where we still laugh because it’s so funny.”
Rob Hunt, fresh from his star turn as Scrooge in Gallery Theater’s adaption of “A Christmas Carol,” plays the quintessential slob, Oscar Madison.
“Rob is just an excellent actor; he really shows a lot of depth in becoming Oscar,” said Shipley, who added that the extra rehearsal time provided Hunt a chance to “really get into the part of Oscar.”
The production’s reboot also created an opportunity for local Elvis impersonator Dan Nix to play the fastidious Felix.
“Dan’s really wonderful; he’s gonna be a good fit for Felix,” Shipley said. “This is quite a challenge and he’s meeting it.”
Much of the play centers around poker games in Madison’s apartment, and Shipley describes the players as “different types and so much fun.” The poker buddies are: Sydney Wilcox as Murray the cop; Kalani Spain as the sarcastic Speed; Scott Kester as Oscar’s dry-witted accountant, Roy; and Peter Veseskis as the mild-mannered, henpecked Vinnie.
Bringing a dash of estrogen to the testosterone party are the Pigeon sisters, a pair of kooky British birds who are Oscar’s upstairs neighbors. Katie Lambert plays Cecily Pigeon, while Angela Adamson is Gwendolyn Pigeon. Adamson is Shipley’s daughter, and he said it’s great to have her in the cast.
“Most of the time, she knows exactly what I want without my having to ask,” he said.
Kester doubles as stage manager and stage veteran Dickie Motherwell is assistant director. Rounding out the crew is: Chris Aamodt, assistangt stage manager; Patsy O’Toole, stagehand; Tim McGuire, lighting design; Arn Lamberg, set assistant; and Margie Lee and Helen McIver, costume consultants.
“Everybody’s worked really hard and we’re ready to make people laugh,” Shipley said. “We’ve gotten too serious lately and people need to escape and just laugh and have fun.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.