The hilarious Neil Simon play, The Odd Couple, is set to open at Melbourne Theatre Company next month to an already almost sold out season! The quintessential Simon style is alive and well in this 1965 Broadway smash hit that tells the tale of mismatched buddies, Felix and Oscar, who are forced to share an apartment after Felix’s wife throws him out. The play became a film, a TV show and another play with an all female cast; it has also had many stage revivals. It is possibly one of the most revered of all of Simon’s works. And did I say it is hysterical!
Multiple Green Room Award nominated actor, Christie Whelan Browne plays Cecily, one of the giggly Pigeon sisters who live in Oscar’s apartment building. “She is a fun time gal and just a riot,” says Whelan Browne. “Such a pleasure to play against Michala Banas – she is a truly funny lady! These two sisters are divorced and out for a great night – I think they bring a lightness to the play.”
Simon has penned 34 plays, has written for TV, has a lengthy and prestigious filmography and has won every notable writing and theatre award multiple times. His name is synonymous with well constructed characters, plots and exploration of the human condition. His Jewish heritage is always at the forefront, writing in a tradition which values laughter as a defence mechanism and which sees humour as a healing, life-giving force. His plays can make you laugh and cry, almost in the same breath, because underlying every good comedic moment lies a tragedy we can all relate to. This is no different in the story of Oscar and Felix.
Whelan Browne agrees saying: “I think the circumstance of two very different men living together and trying to negotiate that is just a funny premise. Then Simon’s script on top is the cherry. Two men living like a married couple is just funny! But also there is a great deal of darkness which only makes a comedy all the more enjoyable I think.”
Whelan Browne returns to MTC after appearing in The Importance Of Being Earnest and The Drowsy Chaperone which earned her a Helpmann Award nomination. Most recently she has been seen in the national tour of Eddie Perfect’s The Beast. Whelan Browne is also an accomplished and highly lauded musical theatre actor with credits including: Producers, Anything Goes, Rocky Horror, Shane Warne The Musical and, Singin’ In The Rain. many will recognize her from her TV appearances in Peter Allen: Not The Boy Next Door, Offspring, Wonderland, Paper Giants, INXS: Never Tear Us Apart, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, House Husbands and Spicks and Specks.
Shaun Micallef and Francis Greenslade star as the iconic pair and, as well as Whelan Browne, features talented Aussie actors: Michala Banas, David Ross Paterson, Grant Piro, Hayden Spencer and Drew Tingwell. Like almost all of Simon’s plays, the work is set in New York, and according to Whelan Brown, audiences should expect see a traditional telling of this masterful script. “I think this is the best way because the script is enough, it doesn’t need any bells and whistles. It is considered one of the best, so you don’t have to mess with that.”
Perhaps Whelan Browne will get her wish of wanting to play dramatic roles in her next gig but for this one, her fate is set in pure comedy gold.
The Odd Couple
November 5 – December 17