Woodford Theatre prepares to have fun with 'The Odd Couple'

Contributing Culture WriterApril 4, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    'The Odd Couple'

    What: The Woodford Theatre's production of Neil Simon's 1965 play

    When: 8 p.m. April 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20; 2 p.m. April 7, 14, 21

    Where: The Woodford Theatre, Falling Spring Arts and Recreation Center, 275 Beasley Dr., Versailles

    Tickets: $19, $12 students. Available at (859) 873-0648 or Woodfordtheatre.com.

It's set in the mid-1960s. The details are impeccable. The characters' personalities often clash. There's a bit of excessive drinking. It navigates the ups-and-downs of relationships both romantic and platonic.

However, this isn't Mad Men.

This is actually a partial-yet-accurate description of popular playwright Neil Simon's comedic masterwork The Odd Couple and the treatment it will be given by The Woodford Theatre when the play begins its run Friday.

In case you haven't seen the play ... or the classic 1968 film ... or the hit 1970s TV series, The Odd Couple centers around slovenly, drunken and divorced sportswriter Oscar Madison (played by Evan Bergman) and the hilarious conflict that arises when he becomes roomies with neurotic neat freak news reporter Felix Ungar (Timothy Hull) after Felix separates from his wife.

As you can imagine, it didn't take long for Oscar and Felix to become "mad men" themselves, but time and time again, Simon's The Odd Couple makes audiences laughing mad with its sharp comedic writing.

"The jokes are just so good," Hull said. "I think it's funny watching these two extremes clash and try to get along."

For The Woodford Theatre, this is the first Neil Simon play it has produced. Director Tonda-Leigh Fields is certainly a fan of the material in all of its various incarnations. Even though some directors have chosen to set The Odd Couple in present day, Fields went with the original time period of 1965. This meant the theater group was tasked with meticulously re-creating the era in its set design and props. It also has a deeper impact on the more human side of the story.

"There's more resonance with 1965 and has more of, 'How do we navigate (divorce)?' because there's no blueprint," Fields said. "The strength of our play is these are very funny actors, but they are playing it very real."

As for the actors, this won't be the first time they've cohabited a stage. Bergman and Hull have collaborated in various Lexington theater production companies, including SummerFest's recent A Streetcar Named Desire and Project SEE Theatre's Big Love. This is the most time the actors have spent onstage in any production, but the time has been equally rewarding for both of them.

"He'd be embarrassed if I told you this, but I think he's pretty much the best actor in town," Bergman said of his co-star. "Any time I'm onstage with him, I know I'm going to learn from watching him. He makes me want to be the best I can be."

Said Hull: "I think that (Bergman's) very conscientious, a very hard worker. If I try something different, he's able to pick it up and try something different back."

The Odd Couple shows that even when personalities mix like oil and water, some of the most valuable relationships can be formed. Toss in a lot of good jokes and some comically tense circumstances, and Fields doesn't know how people can't leave this play with a spring in their step and a smile on their faces.

"At the core, I think this is a friendship play," she said. "We've always maintained that no matter what these guys go through, they will remain friends. We're just really having so much fun, and I can't wait for people to see it."


IF YOU GO

'The Odd Couple'

What: The Woodford Theatre's production of Neil Simon's 1965 play

When: 8 p.m. April 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20; 2 p.m. April 7, 14, 21

Where: The Woodford Theatre, Falling Spring Arts and Recreation Center, 275 Beasley Dr., Versailles

Tickets: $19, $12 students. Available at (859) 873-0648 or Woodfordtheatre.com.

Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.

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