Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Bigfork Community Players stage Neil Simon’s classic comedy

| October 13, 2022 12:00 AM

The Bigfork Community Players open their fall play, “The Odd Couple” by Neil Simon on Oct. 14 in Bigfork. The hit Broadway comedy explores the complexities of the couple relationship from a unique, call it odd, perspective.

No one would mistake Oscar Madison for a clean freak. Even his weekly poker buddies comment on recognizing last week’s garbage piled on his furniture. But Oscar is a happy man, comfortable in his squalor, accepting of his divorce, and optimistic about the twin divorcees he recently met in the elevator. Felix Unger is less positive. About life, love, and the future in general. His wife has just kicked him out for, among other things, his obsessive nature and his compulsive neatness. He needs a place to stay. One might charitably conclude that Neil Simon’s thrusting them together in a New York apartment would be a vehicle for exploring marriage and divorce. But Simon was too clever for that. His concept in the odd couple is to compound the pain of two ordinary failed relationships with the exquisite pain of one guaranteed to fail from the outset. And somehow he knew we would laugh at the result.

“The first play I ever directed was ‘The Odd Couple,’” the play’s director Michel Shapero said. “But it was Neil Simon’s adaptation of the play to women. That was fun, but this is the original. And it’s even more fun.”

“I play Felix Unger,” Ethan Waltman said. “He’s OCD and quite emotional, often given to crying. This role has been a stretch for me because I had to reach deep within my own psyche to achieve that authentic emotionality. It’s not so much acting as it is exposing myself emotionally. Michele didn’t tell me I was going to have to expose myself — onstage!”

Eric Myers looks a lot like the Oscar Madison on the posters. That’s because he plays Oscar and he drew the art. “I don’t think of myself as a slob,” he says, “but I’ll admit I don’t expend a lot of effort dressing up. Or cleaning up, for that matter.”

Although the play is dominated by men, Gina Benesh plays Gwendolyn Pigeon, one of the two women in the play.

“I hate to be the woman who spoils a perfectly good relationship between two people,” Benesh said. “And my sister Cecily and I are perfectly honorable throughout. But thrust by circumstance upon two lonely men, we really can’t be faulted for what happens.”

The Odd Couple opens Oct. 14 at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts and plays for two consecutive weekends, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are available at the Pocketstone Cafe, Bigfork Drug, at the door, and online at bigforkcommunityplayers.com.

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