“THE ODD COUPLE:” CHARLIE BROWN’S PAL PIGPEN MEETS MR. CLEAN

BONNIE GOLDBERG

Can a man who serves his poker buddies a choice of green or brown sandwiches with warm Coke find happiness with a man who trims the crust from his lightly toasted b.l.t. creations, accompanied by a cold beer? The answer is a Duncan Hines Unseal of Approval, but Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, both divorced friends, give it an Olympic try.

 

Oscar Madison is sloppy and scattered and wallows in a pigpen of an apartment, all eight rooms of it. Felix Unger is fastidious and organized and a neatnik. What brings both men together under one roof is the genius of Neil Simon and his classic comedy “The Odd Couple.”

 

Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut will be setting up a playpen for the pair until Sunday, July 22 as “The Odd Couple,” under the capable direction of Vincent J. Cardinal, takes to the stage. Turn the clocks back to 1966 and sit down at the poker game where Felix Unger, immaculately portrayed, with buttoned down perfection, by Pat Sajak lands on the doorstep of his good friend Oscar Madison, comfortably and casually expressed in a teddy bear persona by Joe Moore. When Felix announces his wife Frances has asked him to leave home permanently, Oscar proposes he move in to prevent Felix’s suicide threats from becoming real.

 

What makes this version so wonderful is that Sajak and Moore are real friends, back to the days when they were Army pals and they have maintained that close relationship, and also that Pat Sajak has been entertaining us for decades as the genial host of “Wheel of Fortune.” Moore has spent years as a TV news anchorman which corresponds to his character’s career as a sports journalist. Both men are clearly having fun with their on stage bantering.

 

What seems on the surface to be ideal, with Felix sharing 50% of the costs¬† and 100% of the housekeeping duties, so Oscar can finally catch up on his child support payments, soon turns into an ugly war of Pledge and Lysol. All the “improvements” which Felix has wrought turn into “annoyances” for Oscar to find fault with and complain about and become reasons enough to drive each other crazy. When Oscar calls Felix’s ladle a spoon, it’s a cause for a duel at high noon.

 

The weekly poker game with Speed (Brad Bellamy), Murray (Murray Rubenstein), Roy (David Alan Stern) and Vinnie (Patrick Kerr) soon bites the dust, if there were any dust.¬† The Pigeon sisters are adorably supportive in the hands of Liz Larsen and Kathleen McNenny and give the bachelors new material to argue about with delightful consequences and crying towels. Michael Anania’s apartment set is a great location for the domestic quarrels.

 

For tickets ($32-45, children $10), call the Connecticut Repertory Theatre, 2132 Hillside Road, Storrs at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu. Performances are Tuesday -- Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

 

Check in with Oscar and Felix before Felix has a nervous breakdown or Oscar kills him as they drive each other crazy in the name of brotherhood, bachelorhood and friendship.



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