Karen Greenfield as Cecily Pigeon, John Melvin as Oscar Madison and Libby Montecalvo as Gwendolyn Pigeon share a scene from Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” running through April 29, at CNY Playhouse in ShoppingTown Mall. (Amelia Beamish Photo)
By Russ Tarby
While Oscar and Felix deliver most of the dialogue and plenty of manic action, it’s Cicely and Gwendolyn – those ditzy British dames from an upper apartment – who punch up this production of “The Odd Couple.” These tittering Pigeon sisters, played by Karen Greenfield and Libby Montecalvo, are top flight all the way!
Running through April 29, at CNY Playhouse at ShoppingTown DeWitt, “The Odd Couple” stars John Melvin as sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison and Eric Feldstein as neat-freak newswriter Felix Unger, two New York City men recently separated from their wives.
Director Heather Roach did a good job casting these leads, juxtaposing the stocky, ruddy-haired, pug-nosed Melvin against the long and lanky Feldstein, he of sharp features and inky locks. They both look their parts and give their classic roles the old college try.
Like their poker-playing buddies, however, Melvin and Feldstein make no effort to speak like real Noo Yawkers, and much of the dialogue comes across as pro forma rather than precise. On opening night, at least, the show lacked comic timing, and even the physical bits – such as Felix’ famous head-clearing snort – are presented without any extra oomph.
Although they’ve eschewed Manhattan accents, the actors portraying Oscar and Felix’s poker buddies – Phil Brady, Jim Magnarelli, Derek Potocki and Chris Shepherd – do a credible job but rarely inspire expected laughs. Shepherd’s obsessive accountant, Roy, and Potocki’s sandwich-connoisseur, Vince, occasionally rise to the occasion.
Act 1 highlights include a beer-can spraying sequence at the poker table topped off by an exploding bag of potato chips.
Thankfully, the play swings into high gear in Act 2, Scene 2, when the effervescent Pigeon sisters come knocking at the door.
Funny thing is that these two actresses – Karen Greenfield as divorcee Cecily and Libby Montecalvo as widow Gwendolyn – are among the least-experienced players on the stage.
Nevertheless, they bring the show suddenly to life. After having been invited to share a London broil with the boys, the ladies laugh and flirt, chuckle and chortle, weep on cue and squeal in delight as they engage the hapless odd couple in conversation.
In real life, Greenfield excels as a scene painter for various local theater groups, and here she displays impressive acting chops as her Cicely serves as a kind of straight-man to Gwendolyn’s giggly punch-liner.
Likewise, Montecalvo works a day job as a home-schooling mom, but she clearly has a feel for onstage performance, delivering her lines with gusto and goofiness. At one point, Gwendolyn informs Oscar that, back in Chelsea, the girls’ friends called them “the cuckoo Pigeon sisters.” Now they’ve relocated to the Big Apple where they work as secretaries at SlendeRama.
Still cuckoo, though, which is a saving grace for this show.
“The Odd Couple,” produced by Keith Arlington, runs at 8 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 20, 21 and 22, at 2 p.m. Sunday April 23, and 8 p.m. April 27, 28 and 29, at CNY Playhouse, located near the Macy’s entrance at on the second level of ShoppingTown Mall in DeWitt. Tickets cost $17 on Thursday and Sunday and $20 on Friday and Saturday; cnyplayhouse.org; 885-8960.