Theater Review: Dallas Theater Center’s The Odd Couple Is More Than Merely Enjoyable

The Odd Couple is a replacement show in the Dallas Theater Center’s season roster, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Swapped in when Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s reworking of Dracula proved not ready for performance, the Neil Simon stalwart could have been an afterthought of a show, a comfortably familiar play that coasted on its well-known title and lead characters in a pleasant but not terribly engaging production.

Thankfully, this Odd Couple proudly stands its delightful ground and delivers an expertly comedic escape.

Director Kevin Moriarty confesses in the program his love for Neil Simon, and it’s his deep respect for the prolific playwright that helps elevate this production from merely enjoyable to multilayered and real. His talented cast toes the line between caricature and purely human, willing to go explosively over the top when necessary but able to pull back when the play’s more bittersweet moments must shine through.

While the television series that followed the play (and its subsequent movie version) kept Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison living together for five years, in the play it’s only three weeks that the two men can stand each other. Longtime poker buddies who move in together to help defray divorce expenses, Oscar and Felix quickly find their divergent personalities to be a ticking time bomb.

As Oscar, J. Anthony Crane’s biceps might belie his character’s famous penchant for laziness, but his laid-back delivery and stereotypically real-man attitude about housekeeping never feel overdone. When surrounded by his weekly poker pals—Lee Trull, Chamblee Ferguson, John Taylor Phillips, and Hassan El-Amin, all carving out excellent personas—he seems simply a guy’s guy, ready to throw back a scotch and unbuckle his pants to get a little more comfortable.

Michael Mastro’s Felix, however, is much more over the top—a necessary foil to drive the action. His persnickety ways never carry a whiff of aggression, though, making his Felix more of a sad puppy dog than a strident drill sergeant. In fact, he’s remarkably self-aware and cognizant of his nagging tendencies, knowing full well they’re what caused his wife to leave him.

Tiffany Hobbs and Mia Antoinette Crowe, as the English sisters upstairs who agree to a double date, look fetching in Jennifer Caprio’s vivacious ’60s shifts and bring just a hint of female crazy to the mix. It’sHobbs’ megawatt smile and boisterous laugh, however, that leave the biggest impression.

Timothy R. Mackabee’s marvelous thrust set, sporting plenty of crown molding and splendid attention to detail (get a load of that retro kitchen and bathroom, if you’re sitting on the right side), works in magnificent tandem with the rest of the top-notch production design. The meticulous groundwork laid by all involved that results in a such a breezy and hilarious show make this an Odd Couple worth rediscovering.