Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“The Odd Couple”

Back in 1965, Neil Simon, who had been a TV comedy writer, premiered his play “The Odd Couple”. Yes, over 45 years ago. The play went on to be a movie with big stars and then a very successful tv sit-com. This is the story of two men, one divorced, the other almost divorced, friends, but complete opposites of each other and what happens to each when they become roommates. I have seen the play many , many times and of course enjoyed the comic antics of the television show over these years, but I must say that the new production , now on the stage of The Northlight Theatre in Skokie, is by far one of the best productions I have ever been luck enough to witness. Under the slick production of B.J. Jones, this production appears to have been injected with new life and new vitality. When the show was announced, it was to have been a vehicle to reunite the Comedy stars of  Second City of years ago. George Wednt ( Norm from “Cheers”) was to have played Oscar Madison, the slob, divorcee with a wonderful 8 room apartment in New York and the neatnick, nerdy, Felix Unger by  played by Tom Kazurinsky ( who has returned to Chicago’s theater scene since leaving SNL), reuniting these funny men along with other members of their second City heydays. As it turned out, Mr. Wendt had some health problems which forced him to drop out of the production and allowed local favorite Marc Grapey to move from the role of Murray the cop to that of Oscar. I know that many people were disappointed to hear this as they really wanted to see “Norm” take on this role!

Well, let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing missing from this production and Grapey is one of the best Oscar Madison’s I have ever seen. ( I am sure the Jeff Awards people saw the magic that he created on the stage with expert timing and just the right delivery of every line. The chemistry between  Grapey and Kazurinsky is dynamic and despite the roles being carictures of sorts, these actors give them a real feel as two  mismatched roommates. Every so often we get to witness a play where the actors take on the personas as the playwright wanted them viewed by an audience, and these two men truly have it. Felix is a cook and cleaner who loves his wife and kids, but had no choice but to leave. Oscar is a gambler, drinker and smoker who is stuck in this large apartment and far behind on his alimony. These men were friends and play in a Friday night poker game, which is where the action starts. The group of men who play in this game are made up of some of Chicago’s top actors, many of whom you have seen on our many stages. With Grapey moving up to the role of Oscar, his Murray the cop role had to be taken over, and what a choice;  Peter DeFaria ( one of the stars of “A Steady Rain” here in Chicago , twice) is an absolute riot and the other poker players are up to his standards as  well. Phil Ridarelli as “Speed”, Bruce Jarchow as Roy and William Dick as Vinnie. You could not ask for a better group of men to take on these comic roles who set the pattern for this unusual relationship.

There are also two women in this production. They do not appear until the second act, but are well worth the wait. Oscar sets up an evening with two sisters in the building, the Pigeons, Cecily ( the adorable and very sexy Molly Glynn) and Gwendolyn ( the tall and sultry Katherine Keberlein). Not only are these ladies fabulous to look at, they have a  wonderful comic sens making their second act scene one of the funniest scenes in a play, ever!. In fact, I found this production to be flawless from start to end and no matter how your day was, there is no way you could walk out of the Northlight without feeling lucky to be alive, but with a slight pain in your rib cage from the laughter for almost two hours straight. This should be on your “MUST SEE” list!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

The set by Jack Magaw is a splendid work of art, which after Felix moves in, truly becomes a place where you would want to live. In the first scene, NOT!. There is no credit given to the prop people or person in the program, but whoever that person is, congratulations on a splendid job of finding all the stuff needed to make this show work ( including the pots and pans, brown sandwiches, green sandwiches, and some great treats. The lighting ( JR Lederle), Sound( Andrew Hansen) and costumes(Rachel Laritz) are the icing on a perfectly baked cake. It is inspiring for someone who sees plays over and over as new companies take them on to see such a new and fresh spirit to a play that has been around for more than a generation. Be prepared, that when the play opens ( Northluight has no curtain) you will not hear the theme you associate with the TV show- you won’t, but the music that you will hear belongs with the times and helps to move the show along smoothly and without incident. If you have witness other productions of this classic, I suggest you take a gander at what Jones has put on this stage and if you have never seen a production before- what is wrong with you?

“The Odd Couple” will continue at Nortlight Theatre located at 9501 Skokie Boulevard ( at Gold Road) in Skokie, through December 9th ( this is one they MUST extend) with performances as follows:

Tuesdays ( except 11/27) at 7:30 p.m.,Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. ( except 11/21),Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. ( except Thanksgiving, the 22nd),Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.(except 11/18 and 12/0- only the early show).

Tickets  range from $25 to $72 ( there are no bad seats) and can be purchased by visiting the box office, in person, by phone at 847-673-6300 or online at www.northlight.org

There is tons of FREE parking and bus service can get you there. With Old Orchard lust a block away, dining spots of all price and taste ranges are easily available.

FYI-Students can get $15 tickets ( subject to availability) and anyone who is into theater as a potential career, you need to see this masterpiece

to see othe ropinions, go to my homepage, find theatre in Chicago and click on, once there go to review round-up and click on “The Odd Couple”

check out Northlight’s website, www.northlight.org to see some of the spacial programs for audiences, including backstage with the director and specific shows that have post show discussions. Most of all, enjoy!

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