Saturday, October 1, 2016

MMT's Odd Couple Tickles an Older Crowd

"The Odd Couple," playing through Oct. 9 at Mill Mountain Theatre, is exactly what you'd expect from the region's bar-setting professional theater: slick, professional, entertaining and fully realized.

Neil Simon's reputation-making 1966 play is dated, but the older crowd it attracts is in on all the jokes, the ash trays, the references to $30 dinners for four, the dial telephones, the skinny ties and the giggling Pigeon sisters--who dang near steal this production, lock, stock and barrel.

"The Odd Couple," of course, is iconic and not just as a stage play, but as a still-popular movie (Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon) and long-running (still running in many places) television series (Tony Randall and Jack Klugman). It is the story of two men whose marriages have fallen apart and who seek each other's company in an eight-room New York apartment, where they and their friends have a long-standing poker party on Friday nights. They are opposites: Oscar Madison (Todd Guill), a slobby sportswriter, and Felix Unger (Jeffrey McGuillon), a prissy, house-keeping CBS news writer.

The leads are pitch-perfect for this regional production, both possessing solid resumes, including a number of previous MMT productions. You can almost close your eyes and picture Lemmon and Matthau delivering the lines and, even if that is derivative, it can't be done better for this play.

As good as the entire cast is (Benjamin DeCamp Cole, Matt Harris, Scott Watson and Keith Richards as the poker-playing buddies), it is the Pigeon sisters, Jorie Janeway and especially Jennifer Poarch, who rallied a sometimes mute crowd last night. I have a theory that older, mostly white crowds (and this one was about my age--70--on average, I'd say) don't laugh out loud much. Younger crowds seem to me to be less inhibited in public. But the Pigeon sisters' absurd giggling was infectious and turned the geriatrics on their heads.

Credit director Jay Briggs for much of what is successful in this production. He sticks to the basics of a play that would be more difficult to perform badly than well.  And he's successful with it. 

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