Oscar is a slob. Felix is fastidious.
What more can you say about “The Odd Couple?”
The Neil Simon classic opens on Friday, Oct. 22, at the Albuquerque Little Theatre, running on weekends through Nov. 7.
Felix Ungar checks himself into a sleazy Times Square hotel intending to kill himself by jumping from the ninth floor. But he throws out his back trying to open the window.
In the filthy Upper West Side apartment of divorced sportswriter Oscar Madison, Oscar and his cronies gather for their Friday night poker game. They worry when Felix doesn’t show as expected. Oscar calls Felix’s wife, Frances, who informs him they have broken up. Felix then arrives in tears. Oscar suggests they move in together.
Within a week, Oscar is going nuts.
“It is a perfect, brilliant masterpiece from Mr. Simon,” director James Cady said. “It’s like any classic, you don’t mess with it too much.”
Cady’s assessment of Simon’s work has grown over time. When he was in graduate school, the playwright got no respect.
“He wasn’t (Eugene) O’Neill or a playwright who had something to say,” Cady said. “He was a playwright who entertained. Chekov was also a comedy writer.
“Simon was a commercial playwright and perhaps the most popular playwright in American history with the exception of O’Neill.”
Simon penned 23 screenplays.
“He never stopped writing,” Cady said. “I began to admire him for his tenacity. Later, he became darker with (the autobiographical) ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs.’ ”
Although Simon wrote “The Odd Couple” in 1964, the writing and characters are strong enough hopscotch into any era, Cady said.
“You let Simon tell the story,” he said. “You don’t change his words. You don’t change his rhythms.”
“The Odd Couple” opened on Broadway in 1965. Art Carney played Felix; Walter Matthau was Oscar. The film starring Matthau and Jack Lemmon opened in 1968, running at Radio City Music Hall for a record-breaking 14 weeks. The film also spawned a TV series from 1970-75. The sequel, “The Odd Couple II,” reunited Lemmon and Matthau 30 years later.
“The play is done 60 times a year all over the world,” Cady said. “It stands the test of time.”
Proof of Covid-19 vaccination is required or a negative test result from the past 48 hours required for admission.