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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Cast embraces comedy evergreen ‘The Odd Couple’ in Oshkosh

Critic At Large

Acts of Peace Players

The cast for Acts of Peace Players’ production of “The Odd Couple” is from left top Joshua Lee Demski and Casey Nash; center, Jess DelCamp, Thomas Wolf and Sommer Johnson-Loar; and front, Michael J. Laskowski, John Rubino and L. Douglas Bord-Pire. (Acts of Peace Players)

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV)

People who often direct plays* are among the players in the Acts of Peace Players’ version of the ever-popular “The Odd Couple.” That means the production has strength – the jokes timed, the battle of roommates flinty and famed scenes spicy.

The short run ends today with two performances in Peace Lutheran Church, home base for the budding community theater.

Neil Simon’s hit from 1965 is a classic because it covers so many bases. It’s about friendship and marriage and opposites. Opposites drives the action and the humor.

Because Felix Unger is such a neat-as-a-pin fussbudget, his wife has shown him the door. Now he arrives in the midst of his poker-playing buddies on their regular night out at Oscar Madison’s eight-room New York City apartment/man cave that is akin to a town dump – just the way Oscar likes it.

Much turns around Oscar and Felix. For stretches, this is a two-character play with push/shove rhythm. L. Douglas Bord-Pire* and Casey Nash turn on the heat of conflicts as, respectively, guy-guy Oscar and neat freak Felix.

L. Douglas Bord-Pire “smokes” in his role – brings it on with muscle.

Casey Nash deadpans a lot in a Stan Laurel way, complete with tears from time to time.

Together, they make their odd couple click as Felix feeds slobby Oscar’s exasperation with his just-right dining and neatness.

In one of the add-in comic touches, a cute Mr. Clean jingle from back when is played as the stage crew cleans up in a rush – whosh! – during scene changes following mess making.

Director Brad Dokken also juices up some of the physical comedy in the opening sequence with the poker-playing guys. Included is a “chase scene” as the guys race around the apartment out of concern that Felix will attempt suicide.

The poker-playing sequence finds the guys laying on the give-and-take – New York-ese accents in tow – in the frothy mix of grumbling Speed (John Rubino*), slow poke cop Murray (Michael J. Laskowski*), cheapskate Vinnie (Joshua Lee Demski) and fed-up Roy (Thomas Wolf).

Jokes tumble about Oscar’s poisonous “buffet” and quirks found all around the table in each guy.

Also setting “The Odd Couple” apart is a sequence with a date with upstairs neighbors – the fun-minded Pigeon sisters from London. Pumped up are Sommer Johnson-Loar (Gwendolyn) and Jess DelCamp (Cecily) as the sisters provide gales of giggles and waves of weeping as Felix sinks Oscar’s hopes for an evening of whoopee.

On the whole, this is a tidy production that fits well on the performance space as it massages the funny bone.

For something different in community theater, free hot dogs, munchies and cookies are offered – everything better than Oscar was serving on stage.

***

Creative: Playwright – Neil Simon; director – Brad Dokken; stage manager – Leah Demski; props master – Kylie Montee, Leah Demski; lighting designer – Nate Scheuers; sound designer – John Rubino, Brad Dokken

Cast:

Oscar Madison – L. Douglas Bord-Pire

Felix Unger – Casey Nash

Speed – John Rubino

Murray – Michael J. Laskowski

Vinnie – Joshua Lee Demski

Roy – Thomas Wolf

Gwendolyn Pigeon – Sommer Johnson-Loar

Cicily Pigeon – Jess DelCamp

Running time: Two hours, 25 minutes

Remaining performances: 2 and 7 p.m. Aug. 10

Info: actsofpeaceplayers.com

***

NEXT: “A Christmas Carol” with a twist by Charles Dickens and Brad Dokken, Dec. 5-7.

VENUE: Peace Lutheran Church, 240 W. 9th Ave., Oshkosh, includes a social center on the lower level. The auditorium includes smooth tile walls, a drop ceiling with perforated tiles and 10 pillars with smooth tiles beneath and red-painted plaster on the upper third. Seating for approximately 80 is on folding chairs. A stage rimmed with wood around a brown fabric panel is raised about 2½ feet above the vinyl-covered floor. The rectangular performance space includes a hardwood floor and two sets of doors in the rear for entries/exits. Above the stage from is a line of 10 performance lights.

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