Crumpled newspapers and clothes tossed about the city apartment along with beer and playing cards welcome Oscar Madison’s poker buddies to his home. And Kenai Peninsula residents shouldn’t expect him to clean up when they visit this week either.
Angie Nelson, director, and local actors are transporting audiences to the 1960s and Oscar’s messy apartment with Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” at the Triumvirate Theatre in Soldotna Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The eight-person cast really brings the characters — Oscar, Felix Ungar, a group of poker buddies and two British sisters — to life, Angie Nelson said.
The play, which premièred on Broadway in 1965, is about two friends — neat-freak Felix and Oscar the slob — who become roommates when Felix’s marriage is heading toward divorce. The men’s differing lifestyles and personalities lead to comedic fights.
“I get to be a big jerk,” Ian McEwen, who plays Oscar said. “It’s kind of fun.”
Jamie Nelson, Angie Nelson’s husband, plays Felix.
“The roles themselves have lent themselves to a lot of exploration,” Jamie Nelson said. “Neil Simon is such a good writer. He really gives you exactly what you need to know about the characters.”
While McEwen has been acting from a young age and studied in theatre in Chicago, Jamie Nelson didn’t take the stage until college.
The two have previously acted in leading roles together in Joseph Kesselring’s “Arsenic and Old Lace.”
“Talk about big classic characters,” Jamie Nelson said about the performances.
“Yeah, no joke,” McEwen said.
Angie Nelson said she chose McEwen and Jamie Nelson together because she has seen their “great chemistry” in past performances.
After choosing the leads, the rest of the cast “really fell into place,” Angie Nelson said.
One challenge the cast faced in bringing “The Odd Couple” to the stage, was a short rehearsal time due to late-arriving scripts; practice began about a month ago.
“But that made it interesting because we tried to be that much more productive at each rehearsal and the whole crew here is really passionate,” Jamie Nelson said. “So it’s been a fun team to work with.”
Even with a shortened rehearsal schedule, the lead actors feel they’ve been able to connect with their roles, which McEwen said is key to playing a role true versus stereotypically.
McEwen and Jamie Nelson also agree that trying to forget everything already known about the characters, which have been played by famous actors, has also been a challenge.
“When you’re playing a very well-known role, like these ones, we don’t want to necessarily emulate what’s been done in the past,” Jamie Nelson said. “But at the same time … there’s a certain expectation when they come to be entertained … and we’re definitely putting everything we have into the characters to try to live up that.”
While most shows at the Triumvirate Theater run for two weekends because of actors’ schedules performances are this weekend only —Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. plus a Saturday matinee performance at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at River City Books in Soldotna and at the door before the show.
“Live theatre is a unique beast,” McEwen said. “We feed off the energy from the crowd and they feed off our energy and it’s a different show every night.”