The Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre and Director Trevor Kastein are staging Neil Simon’s Tony Award winning comedy “The Odd Couple” running from May 5th to May 14 with an 8 person veteran cast. For the first time in many shows, there will be no new faces on our stage. Perhaps the popularity and familiarity with this story drew in so many tried and true actors that the need to recruit new faces was not necessary.
When recruiting someone who has never acted, more often than not they wonder if they can memorize all of the lines. I assure my first time actors that they can and will get the lines. What I’m always looking for is characters not memorizers. With repetition and study the lines fall into place. Developing great characters is more difficult.
In truth the difference between a good performance and a great one is not how well an actor memorizes lines and stage position or blocking, but how well they develop their character and how they interact with the other characters on stage. Of course, a well written story is important too.
In the case of BDACT’s spring comedy Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” audiences will be treated to both a superbly written comedy and actors who worked hard to develop the chemistry needed to turn good characters into great characters.
To quote the press release; this classic comedy highlights the hilarious story of recently divorced, broke and sloppy Oscar Madison and self-indulgent, slightly neurotic clean freak Felix Unger who become unlikely roommates after the sudden demise of their marriages. But its more than just a comedy about two guys that can’t get along together. Oscar and Felix genuinely like and respect and want the best for each other.
Pulling off characters who love each other but can’t stand to be around each other, plus find a way to be hilariously funny is no easy task. However, Paul McMillan who plays Oscar and Dan Landsness who plays Felix pull this feat off masterfully. Witnessing two guys coming in early and staying late to work on this chemistry and the choreography necessary for the physical comedy in this play was rewarding.
For me the best parts of this show are the scenes with just the characters Oscar and Felix on stage. Normally long stretches with dialogue between only two characters can get tedious and I often find myself wondering when a bit character will arrive to provide comic relief. Not with this story and not with these actors. They could have stayed on stage as a duo all night for my money.
Landsness makes the character of Felix his very own. You will not see a hint of Mathew Broderick, Jack Lemon or Tony Randall in his portrayal of the neurotic self-defeating Felix Unger. Paul McMillan on the other hand picks and chooses when to give the audience a hint of Walter Matthau’s rendition of Oscar Madison.
Notable too is the chemistry between the actresses who play British sisters Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon. Director Trevor Kastein knew what he was doing when choosing to cast close friends Bonnie Franke and Amy Patterson to these roles. The infectious way that Bonnie and Amy exude laughter during the date scene with Oscar and Felix will have the audiences hollowing in their seats.
The story begins and ends in Oscar’s living room apartment with a group of guys playing their weekly game of poker. Again, Kastein’s casting is spot on. The roles of Vinnie and Roy are played by always dependable and talented veterans Jim McMillan and Bryce Muenchow. While only his second time on the BDACT stage, Tony Kikkert is physically and temperamentally well suited to play beat cop Murray. Last but certainly not least we have Wes Reshel, character actor supreme, playing the part of the volatile yet caring Speed.
Speaking of which, to quote Wes Reshel; “BDACT audiences unflagging support of theater makes possible the dream that a small community can still bring forth a beautiful mixture of Comedy and Drama, Art and Music, Maturity and Youth, to stir and inspire all.” That sums up BDACT and its loyal patrons to a tee!
See you all at the little theater on Spring Street!
Show dates are May 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14. Doors open at 7:00 with lights up at 7:30 for all performances except Sunday matinees on the 7th and 14th when doors open at 1:30 and lights up at 2:00.
Tickets are on sale now at https://tickets.bdact.org/tickets/view-current-shows.asp and tickets.bdact.org or at Rechek’s Food Pride in Beaver Dam. 920-887-7675.