Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
The Odd Couple
In his director's note for The Odd Couple at Albuquerque Little Theatre (ALT), James Cady acknowledges that Neil Simon is not cool among those who care for theatre that "matters." We all know that. Yet Cady reminds us that people go to the theatre to be "entertained," and Neil Simon is entertaining. Sometimes I think we forget that.
The Odd Couple is the second Neil Simon play I've seen with Cady's involvement in recent years. He acted in The Sunshine Boys at the Adobe. While Cady directs and acts in plenty of plays that "matter," he clearly has an affection for Neil Simon. So do I.
Simon has a couple special qualities. For one, his plays and screenplays have been extremely successful. They're immensely entertaining. And he's the patron saint for the WWII generation American male. No writer of any genre captures the fears, hopes and dreams of the American male of the mid-twentieth century like Simon. For comedic purposes, he often pits the poor 1950s sap against a free-spirited love interest from the boomer generation. This is a battle the 1950s American male can't possibly win, but the fireworks are a gas.
The Odd Couple is about male bonding and, to some extent, the inability to bond. The play arrived in 1965 on the heels of Simon's first smash, Barefoot in the Park. The successful Odd Couple spawned a hit movie followed by a hit TV series. It tells the story of a difficult friendship with wild clashes and warm recoveries.
The ALT production reveals how well the play holds up after 56 years. There are a few moments its age showsthe costs of rent, food and suchbut they are minor. The gist is classic roommate clash at a time when American divorce was gaining real steam. These are two guys out of their element trying to figure out how to live without their wives.
Executive producer and set designer Henry Avery has delivered a lovely production, and Cady's direction is rock solid as usual. I was happy to see Cady had cast Matt HeathHeath's performance in Laughter on the 23rd Floor a few years ago was stunningly over-the-top. What surprised me was Cady casting as Heath as Felix Unger. Heath can be a madman of an actor. How was he going to deliver the fastidious Felix? Turns out Felix is a madman. Heath dives into the essence of this character's multiple obsessive issues. Heath uses these issues to drive the play, squeeze every moment for humor, and dig into the story's bromantic heart.
All of Cady's casting decisions are spot on. Simon is a master of making even the smallest characters unique and noteworthy, and Cady found actors who are able bring these characters alive. Avery's set is excellent. Under Avery's artistic direction, ALT sets consistently shine.
Overall, this is a satisfying and funny production. It's terrifically entertainingjust like Neil Simon means it to be.
The Odd Couple runs through November 7, 2021, at Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, Albuquerque NM. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, and Saturdays, and at 2:00 p.m. on Sundays. There will be a Saturday showing at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday October 30 and a 7:30 p.m. showing on Thursday November 4. Tickets $23 Adults, $21 Seniors 65+, $19 Students (13 - University), $15 Children (12-). For tickets and information, please visit albuquerquelittletheatre.org or call 505-242-4750, ext. 2. Also check the theatre's website for its COVID-19 polices.