One of Neil Simon’s most enduring comedies, 1965’s The Odd Couple began as a play starring Art Carney and Walter Matthau as neatnik newsman Felix Ungar and slob sportswriter Oscar Madison, respectively. Their crotchety relationship became a movie in 1968, with Jack Lemmon as Felix.
In 1970, The Odd Couple came to ABC in a sitcom starring Tony Randall as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar.
Next weekend at Muse Arts Warehouse, Connect Arts & Entertainment Editor Bill DeYoung takes on the role of Felix, while Gabriel Ricard is sloppy Oscar.
We caught up with Gabriel last week:
Why The Odd Couple?
Bill and I worked together on To Kill a Mockingbird last year. We hit it off and we hung out a lot after the show. Something clicked one night when a bunch of us from the play went out to dinner and we were talking about something else to do. I said, “You know, we should do The Odd Couple. I could totally see us as Felix and Oscar.” Bill being Bill, he said, “Nah, I don’t want to do that.” Time went by and we did Twelve Angry Men, and after we finished that, I mentioned The Odd Couple again and he said, “Nah, I don’t want to do that.” Then a few months later he called me up out of the blue and said, “You know, I think we should do The Odd Couple.”
The Biggest Challenge:
The Odd Couple is the most prop–heavy play I’ve ever seen. In the script there’s about 12 pages of props. At one point it made us not want to do it at all. But the play is easy in terms of getting a rhythm going. It focuses very strongly on two people, and if those two people have good chemistry you’re able to get a good rhythm.
I think either one of us could play either role. Bill is definitely more of a Felix and I’m more of an Oscar in terms of our personalities. Bill is very much the straight man, and I’m the one saying crazy things and being an obnoxious jerk. But Bill is certainly talented enough to play Oscar, and I think I could pull Felix off too.
The poker buddies are really important. There’s four of them and they’re played by some really terrific people. They contribute very strongly to the story as well. If it was just Felix and Oscar, people would get a little burned out on it. The poker buddies give nice little breaks and do a good job of representing the rest of the world and how people like Felix and Oscar live within this weird little universe they’ve carved out for themselves. The two English girls are really important as well. When they’re in the scene you get a sense of how completely different Felix and Oscar are in terms of their priorities.
There was some talk initially of changing little things, like how much it cost for a pack of cigarettes and certain ‘60s references. But for the most part the chemistry between Felix and Oscar can play anywhere. Go back and watch the movie — it’s really not that dated in terms of the dialogue and characters.
On Jack Klugman:
When Bill and I were in Twelve Angry Men, I played Juror Number Five, who was played by Jack Klugman. And here I am playing Oscar, who was played by Jack Klugman in the TV show. I figure after this we’ll go for the hat trick and do Quincy: The Musical.
The Odd Couple
When: 8 p.m. August 12 and 13, 3 and 7 p.m. August 14, and 3 p.m. August 15.
Where: Muse Arts Warehouse, 703D Louisville Rd
Cost: $15 adults, $10 seniors/students
Info: (912) 713–1137