By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The Tar River Players will bring to life the late 1960’s TV comedy “The Odd Couple” this weekend on the stage of the McIntyre Auditorium at Edgecombe Community College (ECC). The familiar show centers on Neil Simon’s story of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, who share an apartment in New York City’s Upper East Side.
“It’s about two newly divorced men who become roommates. They’re both falling apart because their wives left them. They just both handle it so differently. One is very sloppy and the other is neat and neurotic…It’s a hoot,” said Dawn Whitehurst, the play’s director. She believes audience members of all ages will enjoy the show.
“Older audiences will recognize the pop culture references and younger audiences will just laugh at the comedy,” said Whitehurst.
Brandon Woody, a high-school teacher, plays the role of Felix Unger. It is his first leading role and second play with the Players.
“He’s very neurotic. He would be what I call an OCD kind of personality, neat freak,” said Woody, of Felix. “He means well, he means no harm, and he really doesn’t see how he drives everybody crazy.”
Felix has pet peeves such as insisting that everyone use coasters and put things in a certain place He is also narcissistic.
“He likes attention. He likes to be petted,” said Woody.
Oscar Madison’s personality is just the opposite of Felix’s, thus the title “The Odd Couple.”
“He’s just a big kid and gambles a lot and wants to hang out with his friends all the time,” said Michael Taylor, who plays the role of Oscar. “In the end, he learns from Felix that there are more important things in life than drinking and gambling…They learn something from each other.”
Whitehurst’s favorite parts in the play are the fights between Felix and Oscar.
“They chase each other with a ladle and jump all over the couch,” she said. She also enjoys watching the men’s poker tournaments, which she considers “a study in human nature.”
Nobody in the tournaments has a “poker face” like the grumpy character of Speed, a role played alternately by Bryan Haislip and Kevin Pixley. The other poker-playing fellows are Vinnie, played by Dillon Rogers, and Roy, played by Porter Humbert.
Adding to the play’s comedy are the British “Pigeon Sisters” who live upstairs and go on a date one evening with Oscar and Felix. Whitehurst plays the role of Cecily Pigeon, while Rhonda Harvey, an English teacher, plays the part of Gwendolyn Pigeon.
“Our characters are really complex,” said Harvey. “We’re giggly beyond belief and then we’re sobbing incessantly within five minutes.”
“It’s just a funny play. I grew up watching the series,” Harvey added. “This is my last play in North Carolina, so I’m real excited to be part of it.”
Harvey is returning to upstate New York to be with family but said she has enjoyed acting with the Players during her time here.
“It’s a great opportunity. I encourage more people to get involved,” she said.
“The Odd Couple” will run for one weekend only, with shows at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. All performances will take place in the McIntyre Auditorium on ECC’s Tarboro campus. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors, students and groups of 10 or more. Tickets will be available at the door.
The Players’ next show will be Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” with auditions being held at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday in ECC’s Keihin Auditorium.