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"Odd Couple' takes stage for us again

Forty-one years after their creation, Neil Simon's The Odd Couple characters have become literary and social icons. Call a pair an "odd couple" and listeners immediately know that one is a careless slob and the other a fastidious fop.

The Odd Couple phenomenon started in 1965 with a long run of the play on Broadway starring the late Art Carney as the pippy-poo commercial photographer Felix Unger and Walter Matthau as the unkempt sports writer Oscar Madison. Three years later, it was made into a movie with Matthau reprising his role as Oscar and Jack Lemmon as Felix.

Two years after that, The Odd Couple became a television sitcom with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman; it ran for five years and still is in syndication around the world. Since then, the comedy has been an animated series with a neat cat and a sloppy dog, a short-lived version with African-American actors, and a two-hour reunion of Klugman and Randall.

On Oct. 27, 2005, The Odd Couple was revived on Broadway with superstars Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane in the lead roles and prospects of an endless run.

On Thursday, Richey Suncoast Theatre opened its version of the original for a three-weekend run.

"It's still a fun show," said Bob Reece, who is directing the local production and is understudy for the role of Felix.

The plot has the easygoing Oscar (Marc S. Sanders) living in a large Manhattan apartment following his divorce. The place is a mess, but that doesn't bother Oscar or his pals who show up for a weekly night of poker.

The game is going great one night, until someone realizes that one of the regulars, the rather henpecked Felix (R.J. Rivera, HAMIs for Carnival and Mame) hasn't shown up. He finally arrives with the upsetting news that his wife has left him.

Oscar, who is dangerously in arrears on his alimony, agrees to let Felix move in and split the rent. Before long, the two are at odds because Felix insists on a tidy house and meals at set times, which Oscar feels impose on his personal space.

A visit from the giggly Pigeon sisters from upstairs brings everything to a head. Cecily (JoAnn McMahon) and Gwendolyn (Susan Nichols, Witch in Wizard of Oz) take to Felix, which enrages Oscar, who is accustomed to being the center of the ladies' attention.

Will this be the end of a long friendship? The ruin of the relationship-dependent Felix? The ruination of the deep-in-debt Oscar?

C'mon. It's Neil Simon. Whaddaya think?

AT A GLANCE

Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, weekends through March 12 at Richey Suncoast Theatre, 6237 Grand Blvd., New Porth Richey. Shows at 8 p.m. except Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call (727) 842-6777.

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