Bunch of guys, having a good time, not working too damned hard for the money.
That’s nothing to do with the plot of Neil Simon’s genre-defining Broadway hit, of course, but it does encapsulate the vibe coming off this appealing but slightly too amiable production of The Odd Couple.
One of the most influential comedies of the past half-century, Neil Simon’s 1965 Broadway smash set the template for countless sitcoms to come with his zinger-streaked portrait of strange bedfellows: the divorced and domestically underperforming Oscar and the pernickety neat freak Felix.
Casting is everything and this cast is pretty good. Steve Rodgers is a warmly slovenly Oscar, as comfortable in his skin as someone born into a fleecy tracksuit.
He’s well partnered by Brian Meegan, whose Felix is a reasonably subtle and plausible reading. Rather than play Felix as in the grip of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, he creates the impression of a man attempting to exert a form of control on his world. The more insecure he feels, the more tries to please with his cooking, cleaning and fussing.
The play’s women are limited in their scope but Katie Fitchett and Olivia Pigeot are effective as the privately schooled English gigglepots Gwendolyn and Cecily who live upstairs.
James Lugton, Robert Jago, Nicholas Papademetriou and Laurence Coy are an appealingly grouchy group of card players, though, as with Oscar and Felix, you sometimes wish for a bit more testiness and grit in their exchanges.
When Simon was interviewed by James Lipton in 1992 about his career and the writing of The Odd Couple, Simon recalled thinking he had wrought “a grim, dark play about two lonely men” that “would probably be the end of my career.”
Those dark notes might have been louder in the playwright’s head than they ever were on stage (or in the Walter Matthau-Jack Lemmon film for that matter) but they are wholly absent in this reading. Nothing gets quite as messy as it might.