The Odd Couple, written by Neil Simon and directed by Stuart Hughes, hits the Soulpepper stage again with a loud bang!
In a very ordinary scenario involving a pair of odd roommates, great comedy ensues. The play follows long-term divorcee Oscar Madison (Albert Schultz) and his friendship with Felix Unger (Diego Matamoros), who was thrown out of his home by his now ex-wife. As the story progresses, the audience learns of the obvious reason why no sane person could possibly live with Felix, as Oscar is driven insane. This craziness arrives at a message that both bachelors need to hear: sometimes, you just need to move on.
I was most impressed with Schultz’s acting; he portrayed perfectly a character who on the one hand tries his best to help a friend in need, while on the other struggles to keep his own composure. Hiding behind sarcasm, Schultz brought Oscar to life as a man hitting the lowest of bottoms, seeking salvation by fixing his broken friend. However, none of that would be possible without Matamoros’ quick rejoinders. The two actors created a yin and yang balance on stage, where one would elegantly work off the other: when Oscar fell, Felix rose (and vice versa). I think that a mark of a truly amazing actor is when he can step into the organic balance with his fellow actors (although in this case, as indicated by Matamoros’ artist note, the two actors are long-time friends).
Above all else, the play was brought to life by the attention to detail in the set. Recreating a typical 1960s living room, Lorenzo Savoini’s design helped emphasize the extreme difference before and after Felix and Oscar began their cohabitation.
In the beginning, the stage was dirtied in every possible manner: clothes were scattered, furniture was upturned, and the merit of sandwiches was evaluated by their colour. After Felix moved in, the set became similar to a horror movie, with Lysol-drenched air, and a room so spotless you would think it was quarantined.
The Odd Couple is a great addition to the Soulpepper season. If the purpose of acting is to express a message, the simplicity and harmony of The Odd Couple set it forth loud and clear.
The Odd Couple is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until June 11. For more information, visit http://www1.soulpepper.ca.