Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Odd Couple- Raven Theatre (Theatre Review)

It's 1965.
Martin Luther King Jr. makes his historical march to the Alabama capitol. The first wave of US troops are ordered into Vietnam. Joe Namath becomes the Jets quarterback. The Who release their first album. The Palestinian al-Fatah Organization forms...
With the world on the brink of turmoil and the United States turning the page from a simpler time to an era of upheaval and disobedience, playwright Neil Simon wrote a ground breaking play about two Jews in a Manhattan apartment who argue over dirty socks.
Timeless dirty socks.

The play concerns a man named Oscar (an amazingly beautiful Eric Roach) who loves sandwiches and scotch and hates to clean up. He has recently gone through a divorce, and told his family to move to California. He plays poker with some dudes, one guy is a cop (Larry Cirani, a brilliant actor that may or may not have had a stroke before because I thought he kept winking at my wife, but maybe it was just that he had a stroke before, or maybe it was a character choice. But who would make the choice for a police officer with a firearm to have suffered a crippling stroke? That's why you get Larry Cirani, because he blows the lid off of expectations.)
Speed, a disco guy in 1965, I guess (played with great abandon and hair by Anthony Tournis). Edward Grimly (Greg Kolack as himself) and a guy that looks like he molests his students at the University (a hungry-for-more Greg Caldwell).
Well these guys play poker all the time with their friend Felix Unger (a John Stienhagen-esque Nathan Lane) who has just been kicked out of his house by his wife for acting too effeminate.
So he moves in with Oscar and still acts like a big lady all the time, always cleaning and cooking and maybe giving hand jobs to his buddies because once you walk through that doorway you jump right in to all sorts of weird shit.
"Felix, I'd like a sandwich please, and a back rub, and knit me a sweater."
What do you think is going to happen next?

Anyway, they learn all about each other, and have a date with some broads from England that are divorced and slutty but Felix starts crying in the middle of the date and Oscar fucking loses his mind because these were the last two girls on the planet or something, and can't cut his friend a break even though he is going through a horrible divorce and all he needs is a friend.
But NO! Oscar has his own agenda. He wants to eat garbage and sleep in filth and his friend is getting in the way of this by cleaning all the time and being respectable.
In the end, Oscar kicks out Felix and somehow it's ok because Felix is homeless now and doesn't hold grudges, even though Oscar has a huge apartment, and now his best friend is living on the street and will probably get robbed and raped since he is sleeping in Central Park in the 60's.
Raven Theatre does a great job with this timeless script, and uses props and the Assistant Stage Managers look like maids.
This timeless piece shows no sign of growing into an outdated sitcom script, and Raven Theatre's upcoming season suggests that they remain on the cutting edge of Chicago experimental theatre culture.
In the end, if you want to see a play where two very large men are unreasonably sweaty for such a chilly room, or you like to laugh, then Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" is the show for you!

The Odd Couple

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

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