Review: The Odd Couple (Jaybird Productions)

Picture of Gord Peters and Jack Ferdman.The Odd Couple, on stage in Toronto, did not pair all that well with our reviewer

The Odd Couple, written by Neil Simon, is a play about what happens when a total slob of a bachelor shacks up with an uptight, anxious clean freak. We’ve seen this sort of “unlikely pair” buddy comedy time and time again, but The Odd Couple put it on the map. so you can only guess how excited I was to see how Jaybird Productions would interpret such an iconic play.

I’ll say right off the bat that the design of the show really impressed me. Picture wrinkled clothes slathered across an old, ragged couch in order to perfectly piss off an anal retentive roommate. I bounced in my seat while waiting for the show to begin, excited to see this set in action, finding it to be just fancy enough to feel like you’re at a Neil Simon play and just simple enough to welcome a beating from the actors — a perfect balance.

I’ll also note that Gord Peters who plays the kooky and unkept half of The Odd Couple, Oscar Madison was fantastic. To me, he completely embodies that downtown, gritty, New Yorker spirit I was looking for and was pleased to see the high level of passion he brings to his character.

The cast is an interesting mix of members most of whom claim The Odd Couple to be their first “non-musical”. Although the ensemble definitely does their best, I find that everyone plays a little “too nice” with each other. Let me explain…

There’s something about the plays produced in New York in the late-60’s to early 70’s where there’s a certain level of angst and grittiness that comes out of the actors and this version of The Odd Couple didn’t deliver the type of “ruckus” behavior I was expecting.

I keep thinking, “louder, faster harder” while watching some of the scenes, especially when the group of male friends are all hanging out in the apartment together. It lacked a certain…virility that would come with a group of men sitting around a poker table in the 60’s.

There were also times when the acting came off as a tad amateurish and I normally wouldn’t put so much emphasis on the interpretation, but since it’s such an iconic play, it was all the more noticeable.

The dialogue is of course undeniably funny and garners a few big laughs from the audience every now and then, but many of the jokes or funny lines get lost in interpretation usually due to apprehension or uncertainty.

The cast seems inhibited at times, especially in the way they move around the set as if they aren’t entirely sure of the next step. I get that it’s opening night and it takes a bit of practice to get used to the track of the show but I couldn’t help but notice evidence of unpreparedness throughout either as the flubbing of a line or uncertainty of movement.

There are some bright spots in The Odd Couple, however I find that the show is missing a “loudness” and perhaps even a “boldness” that tends to come with these New York-centric plays. Luckily the text carries the audience through most of the way, but in my opinion, it’s not the smoothest of rides.

Details:

  • The Odd Couple is playing at the Toronto Centre For The Arts (5040 Yonge St.)
  • Playing from September 14-17, 2017, see website for dates and times.
  • Ticket prices range from 30$ – 45$ and are available to purchase online or at the box office (1-855-985-2787)
  • This venue is accessible.
  • Audience Advisory: Mature Content.

Photo of Gord Peters and Jack Ferdman provided by the company.