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An odd choice with The Odd Couple - Curtain Call Company's rendition of Neil Simon's play hits a small audience

“The Odd Couple” must have a very specific target range for its audience, and I don’t think I was in it. While it did get laughs from the audience, The Curtain Call Company’s rendition of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” could have been so much more.

Maybe it was because I’m not in the right age bracket for three-quarters of the humor in the play; maybe it was because I was unfamiliar with 90 percent of the jokes that have been reworked and reinvented since the debut of this play in other plays, gags, skits and movies.

Whatever the reason, while the show was a fun time, there was something missing from the Friday night performance.

“The Odd Couple,” which was directed by Dominick Grossi and produced by Mary Fry, is based on the relationship of two best friends as they discover themselves while living together.

In the play, Felix Ungar (performed by Ryan McComas) is a neurotic, neat freak, overly dramatic news writer that has been thrown out by his wife for his exaggerative ways and melodrama. Completely distraught, Felix considers suicide as a way to escape his suffering.

In the meantime, sloppy and messy sportswriter Oscar Madison (performed by Eric Warner), and his buddies Speed (Tom Fenton), Roy (Ron Chesney), Vinnie (Billy Clebeck) and Murray the cop (Blake Hadfield) are playing poker, chatting about Oscar’s filthy apartment and wondering why Felix is so late to the game.

As the group gags at the rotted food and lack of air conditioning in the apartment, Murray’s wife calls and tells him about Felix’ predicament. As they are discussing what to do, and worried that Felix might try to commit suicide, Felix arrives not knowing that his friends already know that his wife has kicked him out of the house.

After the group of guys admits to knowing what Felix is going through, Felix breaks down, stating he has nowhere to go. Since Oscar has been recently split up with his own wife, he offers Felix a place to stay.

Within a week, however, Oscar is going nuts. Felix’ obsessive compulsions are making it impossible for Oscar to be comfortable in his own home. Felix even has a sinus attack, making loud, obnoxious noises, and is constantly hurting himself. Finally, after Felix drives everyone crazy at the weekly poker game, Oscar coaxes Felix to join him on a double-date with two English girls who live in the building – the Pigeon sisters, Cecily (Mary Fry) and Gwendolyn (Pamela Lambert), which could only end poorly.

At the end of the play, it is apparent to both men that they are both better men for living with each other and learning some of what matters to the other.

I think that if the play had been updated, even by a decade, it would have been tremendously helpful and more attractive to a larger audience. This isn’t to say that there weren’t laughs at the Hilltop Center during the show; there were laughs and chuckles throughout the performance. However, younger members of the audience (25 and younger) weren’t getting a lot of the puns and inside jokes that were obviously before their time.

It wasn’t the acting; most of the cast was very believable in their roles. The script simply won’t bring in the big crowds. For those that did grow up with the original play and television series, it can be enjoyable. The setting was believable, and the background music and setting were on point.

If you do decide to go see the show, I recommend getting there early so that you can get the more comfortable chairs in front. Another bonus about going to this more grown up playgroup’s performance: great snacks and drinks. So while you chuckle at the antics of the odd couple and company, sip on wine, snack on some crackers, and enjoy the show.

“The Odd Couple” plays through June 27, 2010 at The Hilltop Center, 331 E Elder Street, Fallbrook. For ticket information, visit http://www.curtaincallcompany.com.

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