It’s been more than 50 years since Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” made its debut on Broadway, but the story remains quite familiar. After two movies, two television series, and a network cartoon, the quirks of these mismatched roommates are as well-known as their first names.
As a result, viewers across multiple generations in the Brownwood area should be quite familiar with Felix and Oscar. If not, they will be. A total of eight shows are scheduled this weekend and next weekend.
It’s the second show of the Lyric’s season, coming after the February run of “Gilligan’s Island: The Musical” which played to large audiences throughout its two-week run. Local theatergoers seem especially fond of these Lyric shows featuring characters who have become memorable to them thanks to television programs.
My prediction is that “The Odd Couple” will continue that tradition, even though the television to stage sequence was reversed this time.
The television series “Gilligan’s Island” had millions of fans before the stage play was developed, much like the Lyric’s overwhelmingly successful production of “Beverly Hillbillies” in February 2017. By contrast, “The Odd Couple” was first produced as a stage play in 1965, became a movie in 1968, and then was followed by television shows in 1970 and 2015.
I sat in on a rehearsal at the Lyric this week, and if you’re a fan of comedy (who isn’t?), you might want to reserve tickets for this weekend. That’s because you’ll probably want to see it a second time.
The audience already knows that Oscar (played by Ben Cox) is a slob and Felix (played by Matthew McNiece) is a neat-freak, and that most of the comedy and tension result from exploring those incompatible dynamics. But the stage play takes us back to the very beginning, after Oscar’s wife has divorced him and just as Felix’s wife has kicked him out. The opening scene could have turned tragic, but the twosome’s card-playing friends — portrayed by a talented supporting cast — come to Felix’s rescue. A plan is developed to get the two back into circulation, but I’ll not disclose any more of the story. You will enjoy it.
Every time I write a column about the Lyric, I feel obligated to offer this reminder in the interest of full disclosure. I happen to be a member of the Lyric’s board. But even if I wasn’t, I would still write these columns about the amazing talent that steps forward to produce Lyric shows. The talent pool in the Brownwood area is astounding, and the theater continues to bring these players and crew members together to offer local audiences wonderful experiences time after time.
It’s not bragging if it’s true — and if it’s not about yourself. And since I’m not one of the actors on stage or one of the crew members behind the scenes, I can say that.
The Lyric Theatre’s company of performers will have been in its downtown home for five years this December, and they have been bringing the community quality entertainment on various stages for almost two decades. If you arrive early for a performance of “The Odd Couple,” pause a few minutes in the lobby and recall some of those great productions. Framed photos help nudge our memories.
Those lobby walls are running out of space to hold them all, but you’ll get the idea. Community theater is alive and well in Brownwood, Texas.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.