This past Sunday marked the end of our first completed weekend of "Oscar and Felix" and made us await our review from known-critic Ray Blum. Sunday was also the day the AARP all gathered to see the performance.
I loved this past Sunday because it made Smitty and I proud to be an acting couple. After the Sunday performance, Smitty and I were loading things (costumes, props, etc.) into the car and two widoed ladies stopped us on the sidewalk. They proceeded to tell us how much they enjoyed the play and that it was a 'natural escape-like from reality' from their Morgan City hometown. Smitty then began to tell them about the next play to be performed at the Opera House, A Wonderful Life. Their eyes lit up as they spoke to Smitty and I at the same time saying how the last Christmas play they saw here was Miracle on 34th Street. One of the ladies noted, while the other listened and nodded at the same time, with excitement, that Miracle was where she first saw Smitty and I perform together on stage. Smitty and I smiled at each other as the two ladies spoke again. "As long as you two are in plays together, we'll keep coming see them."
Moving on, here is the review from Acadian freelance writer Ray Blum.
During this time of tremendous Olympic effort, terms like "dream team" crop up. The term is not exclusive to athletic effort, however, and if you don't believe me, I suggest a trip to St. Martinville to the Duchamp Opera House and see their latest production, Oscar and Felix. Directed by Vince Barras, the show is a redux of Neil Simon's comic romp first written in 1965. With all its incarnations including a long-running television series as well as a female version, Simon updated the dialogue and plot elements to give the play a new vigor and freshness. Barras went out and rounded up some of the finest comedic talent in this area to populate his stage. The result is one of the finest comic productions I've seen in quite a while.
If the truth be known, I am not a Neil Simon fan. For the most part, I find his humor to be a trifle cruel in its omnipresent sarcasm and its stereotyped New York characters. However, there is something about Odd Couple that gives this show a sort of universal immortality. The world loves an underdog and will inevitably root for the poor untermensch's triumph. From scene to scene, Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar regularly alternate their dominant "pater familias" and "colorful sidekick" roles such that neither main character remains in bondage as the picked-upon victim that Simon seems to enjoy so much. The two leads, played by Smitty Smith's Oscar and Vince Barras as Felix were wicked accurate in their portrayal of the slob and the obsessive compulsive.
My favorite characters in the play have always been the two roommates' poker buddies, Vinnie (Walter Brown), Murray (Jay Florsheim), Roy (Milton Resweber) and Speed (Mac Stearns). While Oscar and Felix's "oddness" comes about as a result of their polar-opposite personalities, the four other buddies are positively artistic in their personal idiosyncrasies. Any one of them could have fit in to the characters in John Kennedy Toole's farcical A Confederacy of Dunces. The actors who portrayed them were magnificent in their craft, playing off Oscar and Felix's personalities and misadventures.
Simon changed the two upstairs vamps, the Pigeon sisters into a pair of Puerto Ricans, Hoolya and Ynez Costanzuela. Kayla Heintz and Erin Segura played the pair to the nines, adding to the "who is going to come out of which door" mayhem.
I cannot recommend your going to see Oscar and Felix strongly enough. Most stage comedies have a sort of cyclic laugh patterns - laugh, sit there, titter-titter, sit there, chuckle. The eight performers, working with a classic script, guarantee a laughs-until-your-side-hurts theatrical adventure.
Ray Blum is a freelance writer who covers theater and performance in Acadiana.