The Odd Couple Presented by the Visalia Players

Jul 31, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Theatre

by Nancy Holley

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The Visalia Players open their sixty-third season with a classic comedy, The Odd Couple, by Neil Simon. The original Broadway production starring Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison and Art Carney as Felix Ungar won several Tony awards including Best Actor and Best Author.

For those not familiar with the play, movie, or subsequent TV series, Oscar and Felix are the unlikeliest of roommates thrown together by circumstance…divorce. Felix is a “neatnik,” for lack of a better word, who is also identified as neurotic. Oscar, on the other hand, doesn’t know the meaning of neat and could care less. Their opposite views of life make for hilarious situations which author Simon exploits with aplomb.

John Olmos and Henry Ralston as Oscar and Felix respectively

Director Leeni Mitchell seems to have once again found the perfect actors to be foils in this very funny play. Henry Ralston, who portrays Felix, believes he is perfect for the role. “It’s me! Very neurotic.” John Olmos comments, “As an actor, I can relate to both characters, but Oscar is more to my side of things.” Ralston, a veteran actor, is back on the Ice House stage after taking a break, and Olmos was recently featured in A Few Good Men and Escanaba in the Moonlight.

At opening, a poker game is in progress in the comfort of Oscar’s slovenliness. The guys – Murray, Roy, Speed, and Vinnie – are friends of Oscar and Felix, but they still enjoy exploiting Felix’s compulsion for order. Murray (Art Simon), who is a cop, is probably the most concerned by their incessant ribbing of Felix. Simon noted that Murray “is the mother hen of the group. He worries about Felix and knows he’s neurotic.”

Pokers players seated: David Peden as Vinnie, Art Simon as Murray, and Don Ajluni as Speed. Standing Ralston as Felix

Simon, who was featured in Boys of Broadway and Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story, is enjoying his gambit into the non-musical world. “Learning lines is a bit more difficult, but this is a great group of people – very funny. It’s a wonderful experience, and I’m looking forward to the performances.”

David Peden portrays Vinnie, who Speed says is “hen pecked.” Peden ignores that comment and says, “Vinnie is a long-time card-paying friend of everybody.” Peden with his wife Belva recently directed Escanaba in the Moonlight. “I love doing comedy. We directed The Odd Couple, Female Version (also written by Neil Simon) back in Oklahoma.”

Marguerite Koster as Cecily Pigeon, Ralston as Felix, and Susan Mathews as Gwendolyn Pigeon

Roy (Mike Nelson) is an accountant. Roy is described by Nelson as “a middle of the roader, always complaining. He likes the guys but whines a lot.” “I know this guy!” he jokes. Nelson is new to the Visalia Players and the Ice House. He has done bits and pieces over the years with the League of Christian Actors, but he may have “gotten the bug.” He noted, “This is wonderful. I should have been doing this all along.”

Completing the card playing group is Don Ajluni as Speed. Ajluni depicts Speed as “impatient, frustrated by Felix. He has a short fuse and lets it out. Otherwise, he’s very lovable.” Ajluni believes that Neil Simon is an expert at exploiting every day occurrences and that The Odd Couple is no exception. “The situations he writes about are hilarious and you just play to that.”

Last, but certainly not least, are the Pigeon sisters, the upstairs neighbors. They fit perfectly with the guys since one is a divorcee and the other a widow. Marguerite Koster (Cecily) has been involved in several musicals directed by Mitchell and is having great fun with this comedic part. Susan Mathews (Gwendolyn) says that “doing a small role is working out great; I was able to have a life this summer.” Mathews’ work with the Players at the Ice House is well known and too numerous to mention!

The Odd Couple opens at the Ice House Theatre at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 2, 2019 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 8/2, 8/3, 8/9, 8/10, 8/16, and 8/17, and matinees at 2 p.m. on 8/4, 8/11, and 8/18.

For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.

Check out even more local theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!

To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLTOC in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can check the podcast out on iTunes/Apple Podcasts and Google Play, and also on podbean.

Nancy Holley has been involved in the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970s, both as a director and actor. In 2010, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since expanded her role at the Players. She is now Membership Chairman and assists with the Players on-line ticketing system.


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