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Review: The Odd Couple at the Comedy Theatre

Review by Benjamin Lamb


Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple made its triumphant return to Melbourne last night, neat-freak Felix and slovenly Oscar finding an Aussie home in Shane Jacobson and Todd McKenney respectively. 


Set solely in Oscar’s New York City apartment, the play follows the pair through dating, domestic life, and a slew of arguments. The set truly felt like a lived-in house, with photos askew, and rubbish thrown around, every corner of the set was taken into consideration. 


McKenney’s Felix Ungar was picture-perfect, the New York accent never wavering, jokes delivered with expert timing, and physical comedy showing us why he’s still a staple of our stage years into his career. At times Jacobson’s Oscar Madison struggled to hit the same heights, with a strong co-protagonist. A weaker accent stood out. 


But Jacobson and McKenney’s chemistry needs to be commended. After the scene stealing pair up as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad in a recent production of Hairspray, it’s clear they understand each other. With any scenes shared just between the two, you could feel the energy on the stage.


Many of the scenes are anchored by a poker game between Ungar, Madison and their crew, who truly felt like friends, the first few minutes of the production dedicated to the group without Oscar or Felix, each working off one another effortlessly to ensure a strong start to the show. 


The play kicks off with the crew and Oscar trying to track down Felix — who hasn’t been heard from in 24 hours — he soon turns up on Oscar’s doorstep, divorced, run down, and on the verge of ending it all. 


These scenes, which deal with heavy topics, manage to exist in the comedic space with ease, helped by the physicality and delivery of the performers. This certain motif popping up a number of times throughout the 2 hour and 20-minute play, each time approached differently, to ensure laughs could be present. 


To help Felix out of his divorce-laden slump, Act 2 opens with Oscar inviting some single girls around for the pair to court. These were the Pigeon sisters, Gwendolyn and Cecily, played by stars Penny McNamee and Lucy Durack respectively. 


The pair were highlights of the show. With phenomenal 60s era clothing, the eye was drawn to them, thanks also to their great comedic timing, strong dialogue, their chemistry on par with McKenney and Jacobson. 


A scene shared by McKenney, Durack and McNamee also deserves to be commended, we experienced 3 masters at work, moving us all through one of the greatest comedic scenes of all time. 


There was also a well-deserved and rare applause break that closed out the sisters’ first scene, the audience knew we all experienced a sensational performance from Durack and McNamee.


The 8-person cast really made The Odd Couple seem bigger than it was, it was clear there’s immense care for the source material, they honour the words written over 50 years ago. It’s an exciting new production of a show we don’t see much down under. With a stellar cast and great set, jump into it now before it’s too late.  

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