May 1 2013 02:03 PM

North Coast Rep's The Odd Couple' tops our coverage of local plays

Matt Thompson (left) and Louis Lotorto
Photo by Ken Jacques

The Odd Couple has been around so long you could almost call it a period piece: the swingin' '60s music, the smoke-filled poker games, the divorce-American-style oneliners. Neil Simon's 1965 comedy about—as if you need to be told— slob sportswriter Oscar Madison and fussbudget Felix Unger has been a hit movie, a hit TV show and a theatrical staple for coming up on 50 years. This is the first time that the North Coast Repertory Theatre has staged any Simon play. So, perhaps the thinking went: Why not start with the granddaddy?

The Odd Couple does feel somewhat dated, as much an American comedy of another era as was The Dick Van Dyke Show. It's still quite funny in spots: The rapid-fire repartée between the gang at the poker table, both in Act 1 and Act 2; the mawkish meltdown Felix suffers in front of the expatriate British birds Gwendolyn and Cecily Pigeon; the hurling by Oscar of Felix's plate of linguini (not spaghetti!). And Oscar's line about the note Felix left on his pillow, the one that read "We're out of cornflakes. F.U.," rightfully earns among the biggest laughs of the night.

Louis Lotorto nails Felix's singular mix of hapless hypochondriac and sympathetic everyman, an aproned clown who inspires pathos. Matt Thompson, however, is too fit and well groomed to fill the worn shoes of Oscar, who should look like an unmade bed and should be more short-tempered and coarse. Their argument scenes together in the second act compensate for rather plodding, more philosophical dialogue between them in Act 1.

The supporting cast—in particular a howling Bernard X. Kopsho as Murray the cop and Callie Prendiville and Amanda Schaar as the upstairs Pigeon sisters—is a strength of this production, as they volley Simon's clever words back and forth at whatever velocity is called for at the moment.

The plight of the sad-sack, soon-to-be-divorced (or maybe not) Felix feels no more important than who's winning the night's poker game, but then Simon wasn't shooting for sobering social commentary way back when. The intention was to get laughs, and lots of 'em. The Odd Couple may be weary after 48 years of productions, but it's not too tired for that.

It runs through May 12 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $37-$54.

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I Love My Computer Because My Friends Live in It: The new musical by Broadway Vista co-owner Randall Hickman focuses on five women and their electronic-communication and social-media exploits. Opens May 3 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista.

Billy Elliot: The musical adaptation of the 2000 film tells the story of a working-class, preteen boxer who aspires to become a ballet dancer in 1980s England. Elton John wrote the music. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through May 5 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown.

Damien: In a one-actor production, Robert Smyth reprises his role as a Belgian priest who ministered to people suffering from leprosy on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Through May 5 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado.

The Odd Couple: A fussy news writer's wife throws him out of the house, so he moves in with a grubby sports writer. Will they kill each other? Through May 5 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.

References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot: A struggling Gulf War vet returns home to his heartsick wife in the California desert in a play that's alternately real and surreal. Through May 5 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando.

Coffee Shop Chronicles: Seven 10-minute plays by San Diego playwrights will be performed—simultaneously and rotated so audiences can see them all—in two dining rooms at The Big Kitchen in South Park. Desert included. Runs May 3, 10 and 15 (just added).

Pageant: You pick the winner in a musical comedy about a beauty contest. Through May 12 at the Coronado Playhouse.

An Ideal Husband: Oscar Wilde's play, set in 1890s London, follows a scheming woman's attempt to blackmail a member of the House of Commons. Through May 19 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido.

Other Desert Cities: A novelist visits her famous parents in Palm Springs amid her plans to publish a memoir that unearths an unpleasant family secret. Through June 2 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.

Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill.


See all events on Wednesday, Dec 7