Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Odd Couple

‘THE ODD COUPLE’ pleasant at Fairmount Center, but…

In these tight financial times, when arts agencies are cutting expenses, or even going out of business, its surprising that there is a new theatre in town. Enter FPAC. The Professional Theatre Company of the Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory is located in the refurbished former Methodist Church on the corner of SOM Center and Highland Roads in Mayfield Village. Other segments of the organization are the Summer Program and the year-round Youth and Teen Theatre.

Operating under the motto, “all ages for all stages,” the organization’s Executive Director is Tom Fulton, while Fred Sternfeld serves as Artistic Director of FPAC.

The theatre chose to perform Neil Simon’s ‘THE ODD COUPLE’ as its inaugural professional production.

Simon, often referred to as “Doc” for his ability to come into troubled professional shows which are having script troubles and doctor the writing, has also been dubbed the “Crown Prince of Broadway Comedy.” Simon, for many years, was the most reliable hit maker in Broadway history, as well as one of the most performed playwrights in the world. The author of over 20 plays, several musicals and 30 movies, he has received such accolades as Tony, Golden Globe, ands Drama Desk awards, as well as a Pulitzer Prize. He hasn’t opened a new show since 2003.

Many think that ‘THE ODD COUPLE’ made Simon a cultural phenomenon. After its long run on Broadway, the play was turned into a successful film, a popular television series, a female edition, an animated series, and later another TV series, “THE NEW ODD COUPLE.’
The story line centers on Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Felix, who has just separated from his wife, arrives at the apartment of his divorced friend, Oscar, who takes him in. Within a short time, the neat-freak, hypochondriac, obsessive compulsive Felix has driven the slovenly Oscar to distraction. But after a seemingly disastrous double date with a pair of neighboring sisters, Felix announces he will move in with the girls. His stay, however, has not been without its effect, for, when Oscar resumes his poker game, he warns his fellow players not to flick ashes on the floor.

The play is directed by Fred Sternfeld, the master of staging large scale musicals. Unfortunately, he seems more timid with comedies. This production is slowly paced, and misses many of the laugh line cues. The results is an acceptable, but not outstanding production.

The show’s highlight is Brian Zoldessy, a multiple Times Theatre Tribute Award Winner, as the hyper-hysterical Felix. As he has done so many times in the past, Zoldessy controls the stage whenever he appears. He is a skinny, fidgety, ball of hysteria. It is worth seeing the show, just to experience Zoldessy in action.

On the other hand, Scoot Hankins lacks the rough edge, the “go for the throat” instinct to go to the extremes that the role of Oscar demands to create the yin and yang of Oscar and Felix.

Carla Petroski and Amy Pawlukiewicz are delightful as the English Pigeon sisters. The rest of the cast, Noah Budin, Bobby Thomas, Kirk Brown and Bob Abelman all develop their characters acceptably.

Why FPAC chose ‘THE ODD COUPLE’ as its opener is a major question. Is doing a play that has been performed by almost every community theatre the image the producers want to convey? Are they going to do old, worn out, dated scripts and expect to attract audiences? Let’s hope that their play choices improve.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Though Brian Zoldessy shines in FPAC’s ‘THE ODD COUPLE,’ the over-all effect is an adequate production that would have been helped by more dynamic pacing, better keying of the laugh lines and a stronger co-male lead.