Ross Valley Player’s ‘Odd Couple’ funny despite its age

Slobbish Oscar (portrayed by Russ Whismore, left) plays cards in pre-production shot with fastidious Felix (David Boyll) in “The Odd Couple.” Photo by Robin Jackson.

Say “the odd couple” these days and many folks think of Donald and Melania. Or Donald and Vladimir. Or, you might say, Donald and anybody.

In Marin County, though, “The Odd Couple” refers to the new Ross Valley Players’ production of the classic Neil Simon comedy.

Though the crowd-pleasing play’s Tony Award-winning Broadway debut dates back to 1965, it hasn’t lost its punch for me — despite my having memorized nearly all the punchlines.

I can’t remember how many decades ago I was introduced to slobbish sportswriter Oscar Madison and fastidious news-writer Felix Ungar, who become unlikely roommates after semi-suicidal Felix is unceremoniously booted from his wife’s life after 12 years of marriage. But the two opposites — played respectively and superlatively here by Russ Whismore and David Boyll — still retain a ring of truth for me, albeit exaggeratedly.

Neither RVP actor has the chops of the original leads, Walter Matthau and Art Carney. Or the 1968 film stars, Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Or the 1970 TV series stalwarts, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.

But both are vastly better than most community theater actors.

They kept me chuckling.

Ditto my wife. Ditto my 11-year-old granddaughter.

For two fleeting hours.

We three also appreciated the work of all six supporting players but I especially liked Jayme Catalano and Crystal Wilson as British sisters Gwendolyn and Cecily, particularly in a scene in which they tee-hee incessantly; and white-haired Frederick Lein, who portrays poker buddy Roy, who looks and sounds like a Carney reincarnation from TV’s “The Honeymooners.”

Mike Reynolds and Jay Krohengold jointly direct the New York City-based show, ensuring it stays rapid-paced and funny despite it being a bit ancient.

Boyll is frequently side-splitting as the bug-eyed, toothy, physically hilarious, compulsive, forever paranoid, distressed, weepy and hypochondriacal Felix, with Whismore successfully acting as his foil, the curmudgeonly, deadpan Oscar (until overtaken with anger, and remorse, in the final act).

Every now and then I was mildly distracted by the show’s antediluvian references: 38-cent packs of cigarettes and $1.30 cab fares and drive-in movies — as well as “Bulldog Drummond,” a 1940s radio thriller I’d raptly listened to as a young boy.

But those momentary distractions couldn’t keep me — or the rest of the audience, which laughed out loud and often, both at the slapstick and the verbal one-liners — from utterly enjoying Boyll and Whismore as “The Odd Couple.”

I strongly suspect you’ll feel the same if you go. 

“The Odd Couple” will run at The Barn, Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, through Dec. 16. Night performances, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; matinees, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $12-$27 . Information: (415) 456-9555 or www.rossvalleyplayers.com.

Contact Woody Weingarten at www.vitalitypress.com/or voodee@sbcglobal.net.

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →