‘Odd Couple’ revival plays for laughter at North Cost Rep, near La Jolla
If you go
■ What: ‘The Odd Couple’
■ When: Matinees, evenings to May 4
■ Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach
■ Tickets: $37-$54
■ Phone: (858) 481-1055
■ Website: northcoastrep.org
By Diana Saenger
With more than 30 plays and almost the same number of movie scripts to his credit (most adapted from his plays) Neil Simon is one of America’s most prolific writers. He’s received more Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer. His comedy “The Odd Couple,” which earned Simon a Tony Award in 1965, is on stage at the North Coast Repertory Theatre through May 4.
Taking on a show this iconic is a brave move said Louis Lotorto, a native of Seattle who portrays the neurotic, neat-freak news writer Felix, who moves in with his sloppy sportswriter friend Oscar.
“It’s interesting that ‘The Odd Couple’ is getting a revival, as Neil Simon’s plays are rarely done in community theaters,” Lotorto said. “But David (Ellenstein, artistic director at NCRT) knows his show business. We met in Portland years ago and I was very excited to get a call (from him) to play Felix.”
Lotorto said he was exposed to “The Odd Couple” as a child when his father, a community theater actor, had the role of Felix.
“I went to many of the rehearsals, so I know the character well, but stepping into an iconic role is always a challenge,” Lotorto said. “You have to divorce yourself from the other actors who played those roles and carve out your own way. To try to play Jack Lemon would be a disservice to the audience. And that’s tricky, as a lot of people may expect something similar to what they’re used to, and may be resistant to a different interpretation. You have to make it your own and also work with the other person on stage.”
Lotorto said he’s is excited to work again with Andrew Barnicle, who is directing “The Odd Couple.”
“We have a great cast,” Lotorto said. “Matt Thompson (Oscar) and I have a simpatico that I felt from the first day.” Lotorto added that a
chance to work in a Simon play is an actor’s joy.
“The best material out there is Shakespeare and Neil is the Shakespeare of the 20th century, in terms of writing and text. He’s an amazing craftsman who is able to blend very funny dialogue with real pathos, real situations and real topics. Behind the humor lies real pain, which I think comes from his own life.
“Neil also deals with middle America, as does ‘The Odd Couple.’ It has a quick character identity with a lot of exposition, but it’s so well crafted, you don’t know it’s exposition. Before anyone speaks at the poker table, you know instantly the pecking order of these four poker players, due to the great character development by Neil.”
Lotorto promised, “There will be raucous laughter in this play … (real) belly laughs. In our production, and what Andy is good about, is (conveying) the real humanity underneath the humor, which audience members won’t shrug off an hour after the play ends. Maybe they will look at their relationship with a spouse or friend because the play also speaks to tolerance, acceptance, and working through the struggles of love in all aspects.”
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