Neil Simon’s most successful play, "The Odd Couple," opened to non-stop laughs on Broadway in 1965. When it opened at Lincoln’s Haymarket Theatre on Thursday night, it was updated to the present and was none the worse for the time shift.
The basic story of good friends who make bad housemates when they find themselves single because of divorce holds up well in the hands of director Tom Crew and a cast that includes several familiar Haymarket players and a couple of newcomers.
The demanding lead roles are handled by Jason Query, new to the Haymarket stage but a veteran of Community Playhouse and Flatwater Shakespeare productions, who plays Oscar; and Randy Hawthorne, also of the Community Playhouse and Omniarts, who plays Felix in his first Haymarket appearance.
Some of the small-but-plum comic roles in the play belong to members of the poker-playing circle that surrounds Oscar and Felix. And they provide outstanding moments of comedy. Larry Mota as Vinnie, for instance, makes hay, with Walter J. McDowell III in the role of Murray-the-cop, especially in a fine bit of interplay over a sandwich.
And what would "The Odd Couple" be without its own odd couple of ladies from England — the Pigeon Sisters Gwendolyn and Cecily? They are played to the comic hilt by Bailey West and Megan Higgins in costumes that really hit the mark.
Perhaps, most remarkable of all, is the phenomenal set on which the play unfolds. Anyone who has ever dodged a pole to get a good view of the action at the Haymarket Theatre knows that it can be a difficult house for staging a play. Though I have seen the space used many ways, I have never seen a complete set built as if it were a traditional stage. And the design is a particularly good-looking one, whether littered with Oscar’s messes or tidied by Felix and his vacuum cleaner. Bravo to the designer who found a way to tame the Haymarket stage.