Actors Theatre of Indiana to open its version of “The Odd Couple’ on Nov. 1
By Karen Kennedy
What do an uptight, neurotic, clean freak newswriter and a carefree, worry-free, mess making sportswriter have in common? Other than the writing, apparently nothing.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that sometimes even polar opposites attract. We can all learn something from people who might not be our mirror image, but might be able to show us something about ourselves.
“The Odd Couple” was written in 1965 by Neil Simon. The original Broadway production was directed by the legendary Mike Nichols and starred Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison and Art Carney as Felix Ungar. It garnered a Tony Award for Best Play and Best Direction of a Play as well as a Best Actor statue for Matthau.
The role of the slovenly Madison has been played by such notables as Jack Klugman, Eugene Levy and Matthew Broderick, and the fastidious Ungar by Tony Randall, Martin Short, Nathan Lane and even Wheel of Fortune host, Pat Sajak.
The enduring story has been made into both a movie (starring Matthau and Jack Lemmon) and a sitcom (starring Klugman and Randall). A short-lived female version of the show, starring Sally Struthers and Rita Moreno, appeared on Broadway in 1985.
On Nov. 1, Actor’s Theatre of Indiana will bring the beloved characters of Oscar and Felix to life on the Studio Theater stage. The play is directed by Jeff Stockberger and stars ATI artistic director Don Farrell as Oscar and Bradley Reynolds as Felix.
Stockberger has been a staple on the Indianapolis-area theatre scene since returning to Indianapolis from New York City in 2002. A gifted character actor, he most recently played Franz in Beef & Board’s “The Sound of Music” and will portray Scrooge in their upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol.” He has appeared with ATI in “Forbidden Broadway” and “Gypsy.”
“This is a faithful rendition of the original stage play,” Stockberger said. “I’m treating it as a period piece, and it takes place in 1965. We pay homage to the movie as well. I want people to feel as if they’re seeing it for the first time, again.”
“‘The Odd Couple’ is the first of the mismatched roommate stories,” he continued. “And it happened during a time when divorce was really just starting to be acknowledged, and certainly that story had not yet been told from a male perspective. There is humor in the story, but it was hard for these guys.”
Reynolds, an Indianapolis native, returns to Indiana from New York for his role in “The Odd Couple.” He acts and produces on Broadway and London. He produced Broadway’s “Title of Show” and the revival of “West Side Story,” and in 2010 he was nominated for both a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for producing the revival of “Ragtime.”
“I love this show,” Reynolds said. “It’s the quintessential Neil Simon play. It’s funny, but the characters also learn from each other and grow by the end of the show. When Oscar says to Felix, ‘You’re my best friend,’ he really means it, and even though they can’t get along living together, they each make the other a better person.”
“And interestingly, we’re going right out of this show and into rehearsals for “Frog and Toad,” which is another relationship piece, and our characters are actually kind of similar. That’s a show for the whole family, and it’s about appreciating each other’s differences,” Reynolds said.
Farrell concurs. “Bradley and I have been friends in real life for so long, and we have each been each other’s Felix or Oscar over the years.”
According to Reynolds, Farrell is ideally cast as the incorrigible Oscar, which brings a hearty laugh but no denial from Farrell.
“Let’s just say that I do embrace my inner Oscar,” Farrell said. “You should see my house right now.”
Other cast members include: Carrie Fedor and Katy Gentry as the British Pigeon sisters who live upstairs, and Adam Crowe, Jeremy Grimmer, Darrin Murell and Dave Ruark as the poker buddies.
If You Go: The Odd Couple runs Thursday through Sunday, through November 17. Tickets are available at: 669-7983 or at www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.com.