The Odd Couple

Rebecca Varidel
3rd Jul 2024

Sizzling Aussie true blue mates Shane Jacobson and Todd McKenney give the original Broadway stage The Odd Couple 'flatmate friends' Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon a run for their belly laughs in the latest theatre show on offer at the Theatre Royal Sydney. Not to be outdone, upstairs neighbours, 'sisters' Penny McNamee and Lucy Durack amp up the laugh barometer  once they appear on the scene.

Whether or not you are familiar with this play The Odd Couple, or the namesake '60s TV series that emerged from it, the counterpoint of divorced friends living together in this New York apartment is something to which everyone can relate. Perhaps you've had a messy partner? Or once you moved it with a close friend your relationship was never the same? Everybody has an experience that somehow hooks in to flat mate life or sharing living quarters. Shane Jacobson wins the game as the sports writer slob Oscar Madison who enjoys his new single life, his poker, his mates. He's happy - until the hilarious antics induced by his nasal honking neat freak best friend news reporter Felix Unger impact his life. As Felix, Todd McKenney strides out of musicals and into his straight theatre climax, with one of the most dazzling performances of his career. Individually they are hilarious. Together Jacobson and McKenney are side splitting. Their comedic timing, movements and stage presence lift their New York acting accents out of the ball park. And here's where Todd McKenney skips into his own. His spritely cleaning rituals give any previous Felix portrayal a race to the finish line. His honks are gold medal too.

There's a level of inherent conservative '60s in the famous Neil Simon script that is endemic to the era, to a time when married heterosexual couples were more the declared public norm, and divorce (or anything else) was not. The extension offered in the play is a script where one-liners are still hysterically funny, with opening night observances seeing an all ages audience from 22 to 88 and beyond wobbling their love handles like jelly. An appreciation of the time, only adds more to a mostly timeless dialogue. And yes, perspective makes the premise, the split of roles, in these two men blow the script off the chart.

I can't imagine a better rendition. Not only are Shane Jacobson and Todd McKenney hysterically funny, but they are supported by a superb cast and crew. In the poker playing group of friends, I particularly enjoyed Jamie Oxenbould's portrayal of Vinnie. Not to mention those girls - funny as... a synchronised sigh or flip of the exit leg.

The Odd Couple is a light-hearted much-needed night of laugh-a-minute entertainment where there are also spaces to rest and breathe and to just relax and enjoy. Great script. Great performances. The ultimate combo meal.

4.5 stars and highly recommended.

Production photos by Pia Johnson.