By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The dinner party scene, with Felix dithering about his ruined London broil, is the only weak part of the play, and Moriarty hasn't helped it by casting young African-American actresses as the Pigeon sisters. That takes us momentarily out of The Odd Couple and into Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
Moriarty also has ignored Simon's obvious clue that the Pigeons are funniest when they laugh and coo like dizzy little cuckoo birds. (Nobody did that better than Carole Shelley and Geraldine McEwan, who played the girls in the 1968 movie version.) Hobbs and Crowe, employing awful English accents, don't chirp like birds; they bray like donkeys. That gets laughs, but for the wrong reasons.
The short third act, the break-up between Felix and Oscar, makes us forget that bit of dissonance, however. Mastro and Crane perform a silent pas de deux of aggression that has Oscar Godzilla-stomping sofa cushions and Felix crop-dusting with air freshener. Brilliantly written and brilliantly acted.
The Odd Couple
continues through April 14 at the Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St. Call 214-880-0202.
The Odd Couple's central theme is how hard it is for human beings to change. Moriarty's done well by changing up the usual image of Oscar Madison and making him Don Draper in a dirty shirt. And by keeping the play in its original period, we now can see how we've changed into a culture of continuous, obsessive self-improvement. These days, Felix would swear off gluten, get hair plugs and hire a life coach to sort him out. Oscar would end up addicted to gambling and computer porn. Neil Simon wrote them happier endings. In 1965 all it took was a little help from your friends.