Review: The Odd Couple (Scarborough Players)

Neil Simon classic returns to the stage thanks to the Scarborough Players in Toronto

The Odd Couple is a 60s sitcom on stage. Based on the play by Neil Simon that had its Broadway debut in 1965, the story made its way to the big screen in ’68 and was developed for television in the 70s. This month, the Scarborough Players bring this hilarious comedy about two highly unlikely roommates to the stage at the Theatre Scarborough.

The story focuses on the lives of Oscar Madison (Allan Cooke), a recent divorcee living up the bachelor life in a rather slobbish New York apartment. During a poker game with the guys, he learns of his best friend Felix Ungar’s (Paul Cotton) own departure with his wife and his subsequent downward spiral. Reaching out to his best friend, Oscar invites Felix in to live with him where ultimately their opposing personalities clash and, of course, hilarity ensues.

Accompanying me for this performance was my housemate Sara, who, with her own theatrical background, was eager to jump back into attending live performances. With a performance like this one, there’s no need to beat around the bush. We both agreed it was funny, dynamic, high energy and excellently acted.

Oscar, I found, has a personality very similar to mine – loud, sarcastic, snarky, and a tad on the overbearing side – which is why I was able to relate so well. Cooke did a great job at maintaining the energetic frustration and anger that actually made his character relatable.

Opposite to that, Felix’s obsession with cleanliness, militant scheduling habits, passive aggression, and gluttony for self-pity counteracted Cooke’s performance perfectly. Cotton’s delivery of this character was endearing and quite pathetic, but lovingly so. You do find the desire to want to take care of him. Sara was stunned at how much his character reminded her of her own ex-husband right down to his personality, mannerisms and even his shoes.

My only dislike was for the characters of the Pigeon sisters, Gwendolyn and Cecily (Kim Sprenger and Stephanie Haines). Though the lovely ladies portraying the sisters delivered a fantastic performance, the characters gritted against me in their ditzy and flighty personalities.

I affectionately referred to the characters as “Bambi and Kiki”, the bimbo, fluffy female types that a guy like Oscar would pick up at a bar, only in this situation, a stalled elevator. As the only two female characters in the play that the audience see, it leaves a stronger, or at least a more rational, female presence a bit wanting.

The performance is delightfully funny and is bound to leave you in stitches – for us it was well worth the snowy trek for the theatre.


Photo of Allan Cooke, Kim Sprenger, Paul Cotton, and Stephanie Haines by Sean Howard.