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Newly Minted Neil Simon Classic “The Odd Couple” On Stage At Ipac

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Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

“The Odd Couple” is one of Neil Simon’s most successful plays, and believe me he’s had a slew of them. He holds the record as Broadway’s most successful playwright with over 30 smash Broadway hits; with three running simultaneously, in a non-pareil career.

The genius that is Simon is his ability to resonate with his audience. One doesn’t laugh at his characters. One laughs with them and the laughs are non-stop. It should come as no surprise then that the Palm Desert Stage Company (PDSC) is presenting a first-rate production of Simon at his best; lovingly directed by Jeanette Knight.

left to to right Matthew Shaker, Debbie Apple, Colleen Kelley
left to to right Matthew Shaker, Debbie Apple, Colleen Kelley

Producer and founder of PDSC Colleen Kelley, who plays one of the Pigeon sisters in the production, gathered a cast of some of the Valley’s most talented and sharpest comedians and actors who bring fresh portrayals to Simon’s iconic characters of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger played by Lou Galvan and Matthew Shaker, respectively.

Galvan and Shaker are well known actors here in the Valley, and their on-stage chemistry plays like gangbusters under Knight’s creative direction. Galvan’s Oscar is a dynamo of energy with impeccable comedy timing. It’s always a pleasure watching him perform. He has a serious side but he excels in comedy roles; thank goodness.

Ron Young, Alan Berry, Peter Mins, Lou Galvan
Ron Young, Alan Berry, Peter Mins, Lou Galvan

Shaker as the fussy, about-to-be-divorced-from-his-wife, Felix, is a revelation. Shaker has run the acting gamut with such diverse roles as the villain in “Wait Until Dark”, at the Palm Canyon Theatre years ago, to Cornelius in “Hello Dolly” to Claude in “Hair” (the man’s a professional musician as well), to now as Felix in the PDSC production gem “The Odd Couple”. Shaker’s Felix brings another comedy dimension to the character created by Neil Simon. He and Galvan are the perfect “Odd Couple” It’s one of Shaker’s finest performances. His frustration with Galvan’s slob Oscar portrayal is priceless to watch.

Bolstering the entertaining production is the solid hilarious ensemble group of card-playing cronies of Oscar: Ron Young as Murray, Charles Williams Gaines as Vinnie, Peter Mins as Roy, and Alan Berry as Speed (it’s good seeing Berry back on the boards after a five year hiatus). Adding spice to the comedy proceedings are the aforementioned Colleen Kelley as Gwendolyn Pigeon, and Debbie Apple as Cecily Pigeon, the English sisters who live in the upstairs apartment in Oscars building.

It was gratifying to see a sold-out house on opening night at the Indio Performing Arts Center (IPAC). The mostly middle-age patrons of a “certain age” audience, relished the on-stage shenanigans of the actors remembering, no doubt, the first time seeing “The Odd Couple” back in the middle 1960’s. This production is like a good vintage wine that only gets better with age in the caring hands of a terrific ensemble cast.

“The Odd Couple performs at IPAC through November 23rd, 2014. Call the Palm Desert Stage Company Box Office at 760-636-9682 for reservations and ticket information.

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