by Kelly Bedard
Without question, The Odd Couple is the first production at Soulpepper that I’ve truly loved. I liked The Kreutzer Sonata a lot, enjoyed The Glass Menagerie and was very impressed by the heft of White Biting Dog. But with The Odd Couple, Soulpepper has moved from a solid company I admire to one I will actively seek out- less like Tarragon and more like Stratford.
Neil Simon’s brilliant script- full of just as much heart as it has full belly laughs- is perfectly staged by Stuart Hughes. It’s simple and straightforward- Lorenzo Savoini’s set and Erika Connor’s costumes adding small character detail to the story without over-interpretation or distracting on-the-nose elements. They set the play in period without constricting it, allowing it to feel relatably modern without modernizing.
Giving life to Simon’s wonderfully detailed characters is a cast so good that even the low-line-count poker buddies sparkle. I was thrilled to see Oliver Dennis (whom I absolutely adore from his series-stealing performance as Jerry in Slings and Arrows but whom I’ve never seen on stage); his Murray is a precise and sympathetic guy’s guy anyone would be happy to have in their poker group- so long as you don’t let him deal. The dealer should be Speed, Michael Hanrahan’s hoot of a loudmouth. Derek Boyes and Kevin Bundy round out the motley crew of well-meaning sidekicks as the nervous Vinny and slick Roy- both well-developed despite their line-starved existences. Raquel Duffy and Michelle Monteith are cute but forgettable as eligible sisters, but this play really does belong to the men.
|photos by Cylla Von Tiedemann|
The Odd Couple is a ton of fun while maintaining its heart as a sweetly melancholy tale of friendship and the ways in which we torture each other. It’s really a great achievement by a truly wonderful company.
The Odd Couple plays at The Young Centre for the Performing Arts until November 19th.