Escondido, CA---Just for you know what and giggles, check out Randall Hickman and Douglas Davis on their take of the Neil Simon comedy “The Odd Couple” now on the stage at Welk Village Theatre in Escondido through Aug. 17th.
Hickman is sportswriter Oscar Madison and Davis is news writer Felix Unger of Simon’s sit com piece “The Odd Couple”. Before his “Odd Couple” (It earned him a Tony in 1965), now in a fun filled production at Welk, he wrote “Come Blow Your Horn” and “Barefoot in the Park”. The last garnered him another Tony. He went on to become one of the most prolific playwrights of our century. In 1966 he had four plays showing on Broadway.
For years, one could expect to see at least one, if not more Neil Simon shows in one season. Over time, his star grew tarnished with overkill. It seems a resurgence of Simon’s humor of one-line zingers and fast repartee, has begun its re, re runs again in and around our fair city. Within the last two years another production of “The Odd Couple” and his “The Sunshine Boys” has surfaced.
Hickman and Davis are producing the show with Hickman directing a well trained and well matched group of six ordinary guys who have been friends for years playing the same game of poker on the same night and most likely having the same conversations. One smokes a cigar to the distaste of all, one is Oscar’s accountant, and one is a police officer working out of the local precinct. They all sit in the same place at every game. Talk about creatures of habit.
They do what guys do naturally; talk and pick at each other, complain about the weather, criticize the looks of the food Oscar serves- (the cheese and meat have not been refrigerated since his fridge broke down weeks ago) and drink warm beer and fuzzy soft drinks and they do it convincingly.
Just looking at the state of Oscar’s now bachelor apartment (Hickman) since he and his wife split, its clear that his mess doesn’t seem to bother anyone, especially Oscar. Clothes are piled up everywhere, empty Chinese containers litter the floor, and food left out from other meals piles up, but the game continues on. The guys in the poker game just walk over it.
This night, there is an empty chair around the table and talk of their missing friend Felix gets their attention. They finally decide to check up on him only to learn that he is suicidal over the fact that his wife of eleven years threw him out of their place.
When he finally does arrive at Oscar’s apartment up tight, finicky and pacing and noticeably depressed, his pals try to talk him out of jumping from the window as his wife told the others that he sent a telegram to her of his intent to commit suicide. Oscar lives on the 12th floor. Simon capitalizes on that for a while including a few trips to the loo that has them on high alert for any signs of windows opening.
When all is said and done and the others leave Oscar’s apartment, world-class slob Oscar invites neurotic clean freak Felix to move in with him and become his roommate. Voom! Before even going to bed, Felix begins the process of straightening up.
After Felix and Oscar move in together, and things fall in to a routine, they are more like a married couple on the cusp of a divorce than in the ‘getting to know you’ scenario. Everything Felix does annoys Oscar. But the guys still come and love the fact that Felix prepares food for them and caters to them during the ‘game’.
When Felix takes it to extremes by sanitizing the cards and spraying the room to clear the air, they finally take notice and decide to call the game off. That’s when Oscar starts messing thing up again only to have Felix walking around cleaning up after him.
In effort to break up the monotony of their now neatly and boring lives, Oscar invites the two Pigeon sister’s, their upstairs neighbors to dinner. Cecily and Gwendolyn (Melissa Murphy Beamish and Eileen Bowman Sylwestrzak wearing over sized fluffed up wigs and looking very sexy are a hoot as the ditsy sisters from England who fall head over heels over Felix), oblivious to the tension between the men they are all over Felix and his home cooked (soon to be burned to the crisp London Broil) meal.
Oscar plays the macho as Felix shrivels into a sinking violet and the girl’s are smitten. Oscar is beside himself with frustration and it appears that this might be the beginning of the end of the roommate situation. And so it goes!
Fine support comes from Larry Parker, Torre Younghans, Marc Sylwestrzak, Randall Huff as their poker playing pals and of course the gals bring the house down when they both try to fit through the door at the same time, eyes agog, trying to look around corners at the apartment, that looks like it came strait out of House and Garden.
This production though really belongs to this ‘dynamic duo of San Diego Theatre’. Hickman’s Oscar (kind of like a Lou Costello) is like a bull in a China shop. He is a larger than life presence with a booming voice that can capture your attention in a heartbeat. In 2011 Hickman took home an award from San Diego Theatre Critics Circle for his performance of Edna in “Hairspray” at Moonlight. No easy task, that.
On the other hand, Davis’ Felix is his foil as he recoils into himself but goes on about his business as usual. He’s like the Bud Abbot in that team. Davis’ Felix starts out as a mess of a guy with frailties abounding and over the course of the play, finds his sweet spot as a stronger than expected mate and goes about his business much to the Oscar’s frustration. The fact that they have been together as a couple for over twenty years kicks in and it shows.
As the founders of The Broadway Theatre/ Premiere Productions (This year marks their tenth year) neither is afraid of hard work; Doug constructed the detailed set, Randall coordinated the costumes and set details, Jennifer Edwards of the Welk Family is in charge of lighting and Crystal Burden, the sound.
Overall, in Hickman and Davis’ hands, Simon’s comedy of the past becomes the reality of the future with so many sharing living spaces these days. Let’s just hope they don’t end up in Judge Judy’s court for failure to pay rent, keep a contract or destruction of property.
It’s an afternoon delight.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Aug. 17th
Organization: Welk Resort
Production Type: Comedy
Where: Welk Resort Theatre, Escondido. CA
Ticket Prices: $31.50