Recommended *** Last year, one of my reviewers, Mike Horn, made me aware of a theater company located on Glenview Road, in downtown Glenview, called Oil Lamp Theater. This is a small “store-front” type of theater that many drive by, or in this case, walk by, and hardly even know it is there. Well, folks- pay attention. This intimate space is something to be recognized and someplace where one can enjoy small plays.
Keith Gerth, Founder and Artistic Director, who by the way, is also the Director of the show and the set designer, and does the costumes, lighting and props, not to mention the sound, has what one might call a theater he can call his own. He does however, have a Board of Directors and some very good people working with him, so this is “vanity” theater with a purpose- to bring quality theater to the “Burbs with a special feeling.
When one enters the portal of this space, you are greeted by Mr. Gerth himself. The space is a huge bar with some yummy cookies just waiting to be tasted. There are soft drinks available but if you are in the mood for libations, you must BYO ( bring your own) they will undo the cork and lend you the glasses. There are also some M & M’s and Cashews out with some cups to use to bring into the theater.
The theater itself is a narrow one with each row containing six comfy chairs and there are risers so your sight lines are quite good. 36 seats and then in the rear, 6 additional bar stools (with backs) to bring you high, above the crowd. Being smaller, the sound carries well and there was never a problem (except when someone’s cell phone goes off- don’t silence them! Turn them off! Can’t we live for 2 hours and 15 minutes without a phone?).
“The Odd Couple”, their current production is Neil Simon’s classic story about two friends, one divorced and a slob, taking in the other, a Neatnik who is just going through his own separation. How can these two opposites live in one New York apartment, even if it does have 8 rooms?
Playing the two main characters are Chris Miller as Oscar Madison, the slob and Steve Zeal as Felix Unger, the Neatnick. While Mr. Zeal had some special moments in the second act, it took him a little more time in the first act to become someone that we could care for. Why Oscar took him in or the other members of the poker group even cared about him was a mystery. But as the play progressed, thanks to Miller’s strong character, the audience got a little more comfortable with the whining and noises ( think back to the movie-Jack Lemmon or the TV show, Tony Randall, and you will see that Zeal tried to be them). Miller was never anyone but Oscar Madison and when he made a mess, you knew it was his.
The poker buddies who start the show and end the show are a group of men who set the pace for the two men and their characters. Vinnie (Zach Bloomfield), Roy (Michael Dalberg), Speed (Grant Niezgodski) and the very loveable Murray (deftly handled by Rob Weinstein) work well as a team. Speaking of teams, it seemed starnge that these men had what one might call “poker shirts”. Yes, they were wearing what could be Bowling Shirts ( like they were a team) to play poker. I have never seen this in a production of this play, but it certainly gave them the flavor of a team. They also worked as a team in changing the scenes with the able-bodied stage manager Becca Holloway.
As the play goes on, we watch these two men begin to work out their new pattern, but after awhile Felix and his whining gets to his “roomie”. The big change comes when Oscar invites two lovely neighbor sisters, The Pigeon’s, for dinner and a night of “what will be, will be”! This is a turning point in the production as they are delightful. Elizabeth Mazur as Cecily and Cristiana Barbatelli as Gwendolyn are both adorable as they bring Felix to tears and then join him, destroying the evening for Oscar. This is the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and Oscar tosses Felix out, but, as Simon brings the show to an end, we do see that each of these men has learned something from the weeks they shared as “The Odd Couple”.
Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $35 and can be reserved by calling the box office at 847-834-0738 or on line at www.oillamptheater.org
The theater is located at 1723 West Glenview Road, just west of Waukegan Rd (Rte 43) in Glenview. They have free parking in the adjacent lot and there is free street parking in Glenview. Don’t forget the yummy cookies inside. To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Odd Couple”.