‘The Odd Couple’ at Cockpit in Court

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THREE AND A HALF STARS
Life goes on for the divorced, broke, and sloppy. -or so Oscar Madison is learning. Couple that with a neurotic nutbag of a roommate and you’ve got Cockpit in Court’s first Cabaret show of the 2014 summer season: Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. Directed by Albert J. Boeren, this iconic production, which later became several movies and a TV series, has laughs about life’s trials and tribulations when it comes to divorces and roommates and life after both of those things.

Felix (Chris Barsam) and Oscar (Sam Ranocchia). Photo by  freyphotographic.
Felix (Chris Barsam) and Oscar (Sam Ranocchia). Photo by freyphotographic.

Creating the slovenly disgusting apartment of Oscar Madison while still giving it a posh 1960’s flare, Set Designer Michael Rasinski works the crossed ‘in-the-round’ space with a practiced hand. Making clear entrances marked and noted, an intimate space becomes the lavish eight room apartment becomes the epitome of a well-to-do man from the era living in the Big Apple. And once Felix Unger gets his hands on the place, Rasinski’s designs really shine with a finely dusted and vacuumed polish. The crown molding in stark white against the baby blue wall paint is the perfect touch of elegant class.

The biggest problem that I had at my performance was the pacing. While the title characters play well against one another, bickering and bantering in a fashion that suggests they understand the nuances of comic timing, it’s adding in the rest of the male actors that creates the timing issues. The first scene, which for the first few minutes doesn’t even involve Oscar, dragged horrendously. The dialogue between the four poker-playing people needed to move at a rapid if not spit-fire pace in order for the jokes to land and the situation to build comic momentum. Director Albert J. Boeren also needed to tighten the scene change in the second act as well as the duration of the intermissions. Having over 30 minutes of intermission— split unevenly into 20 minutes and later, ten minutes— detracted from the overall progression of the performance. There was a long winded pause between scenes one and two during Act II that felt superfluous as well.

Aside from the pacing issues with the four poker-players, the four fellas give a mostly entertaining portrayal of comedy. Once Felix and his suicidal tendencies become involved, the comedy grows manic and gets to be more humorous. Roy (Henry Reisinger Jr.) is a great complainer, while Vinnie (H. Ray Lawson) is a great winner. Murray (Robert Scott Hitcho) is a great lunkhead, and a cop to boot, while Speed (Thom Peters) is just mouthy. Each of these four actors has their own little niche that they’ve carved into a semi-finished caricature. As the production continues its run there appears to be potential for further character development.

Stealing the comic bits of the show are the two characters who only encountered for a handful of moments in the second scene of Act II. The Pigeon sisters— Gwendolyn (Katherine Ariyan) and Cecily (Megan Monahan) are the talk of the town in this production. With their near-flawless British accents and kindly humor, Ariyan and Monahan become a comic duo that rival Oscar and Felix. When they get to doting upon Felix as he struggles awkwardly to make idle conversation with them, the whole scene erupts into hysterics, making for a hysterical moment upon the stage. Ariyan, being the more talkative sister, has a perfect handle on the depth of her character, making the cameo role truly shine.

The odd couple, Oscar (Sam Ranocchia) and Felix (Chris Barsam) make good on the title of the play. Ranocchia is loud-mouthed, opinionated, and crassly crude while Barsam portrays the neurotic spastic man with heinously mild manners and an unnervingly cool collected persona. Ranocchia lays into Barsam later in the production in an uproarious explosion of pent-up frustration that leaves the audience rolling in their seats with laughter. The pair of actors has exceptional comic timing, knowing how to deliver Simon’s lines to maximize their comic potential. Barsam relies mostly on his responsive facial expressions to deliver the humor that is tightly bound up in his character’s meager existence. The moment with the aerosol can at the top of Act III is a hoot to die for.

Cast members of 'The Odd Couple.' Photo by  freyphotographic.
Cast members of ‘The Odd Couple.’ Photo by freyphotographic.

The Odd Couple is a fun production filled with timeless jokes and one-liners and lots of laughs. Be sure to get your tickets to Cockpit in Court’s The Odd Couple before Felix and Oscar work out their differences!

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, with 2 intermissions.

The Odd Couple plays through June 29, 2014 at Cockpit in Court— in the upstairs Cabaret of the Theatre Building of the Community of College of Baltimore County Essex Campus – 7201 Rossville Boulevard, in Rosedale, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (443) 840-2787, or purchase them at the door.

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Amanda Gunther is an actress, a writer, and loves the theatre. She graduated with her BFA in acting from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and spent two years studying abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her time spent in Sydney taught her a lot about the performing arts, from Improv Comedy to performance art drama done completely in the dark. She loves theatre of all kinds, but loves musicals the best. When she’s not working, if she’s not at the theatre, you can usually find her reading a book, working on ideas for her own books, or just relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of her Baltimore hometown. She loves to travel, exploring new venues for performing arts and other leisurely activities. Writing for the DCMetroTheaterArts as a Senior Writer gives her a chance to pursue her passion of the theatre and will broaden her horizons in the writer’s field.