The Odd Couple is an odd choice

“Is she pregnant? No just fat.” Boom-boom. It’s such a good week to remind us that women are best kept pretty or pregnant.

The Odd Couple is the MTC’s end-of-year already-close-enough-to-sold-out cash-cow show with Shaun Micallef as Felix, the neat-freak cow, and Francis Greenslade, as Oscar the messy bull.

Shaun Micallef, Michala Banas, Christie Whelan Browne, Francis Greenslade. Photo by Jeff Busby
Shaun Micallef, Michala Banas, Christie Whelan Browne, Francis Greenslade. Photo by Jeff Busby

The Neil Simon play opened on Broadway in 1965 and became better known by its 1968 film and the 1970’s spin-off TV series. It’s about middle-aged straight white men with comfortable incomes, and based on the absurdity that two men could live together as a couple. When Felix’s marriage breaks up, he moves in with his lonely divorced mate Oscar in his New York appartment. To make it easy to understand the ha-ha, Felix likes doing girl things like looking nice, cooking and cleaning.

And even though this feminine side creates chuckles, it’s still stronger than the women in the play. The two onstage woman talk about taking off their clothes in front of the fridge when they are hot – silly girls – but they are very pretty and their impact on the story is minimal. There are more offstage women: wives and ex-wives who annoy the men by calling on poker night (there are four poker buddies) and are complained about, laughed at and lied to.

Sure, it was written at a time when nasty women didn’t get involved in politics or write much about peecee theatre – but why bring it back? Neil Simon is a terrific writer, but would he write this now?

There’s more to the script than easy jokes, but it’s hard to see much exploration of it. There’s plenty to reflect on about men who have been broken by the end of their marriages, but Micallef crying like a buffoon and mugging does little more than resemble emotion.

It’s as hard to see irony, reflection or self awareness on the stage. Apart from the face-slap irony that Micallef and Greenslade have created some of the sharpest political satire on television. And that it’s presented by the same company that recently gave us Straight White Men, which ripped the privileged dead heart out of plays like this, and Lilith the Jungle Girl, which put a queer heart back into anyone who has never seen themselves represented on a commercial stage.

Is The Odd Couple the commercial price for these shows? But why this show? There are lots of commercial, funny, successful, money-making plays that these actors could have done. There are plays that don’t have a cast of six middle aged white men and two pretty young women.

If it’s just harmless escapism for the subscribers, who are these people who want to escape to a world that’s dominated by middle-aged straight white men who laugh about how they deceive and trick women, and think that “Chinese” food is exotic? Are they really the people who subscribe?

At least there wasn’t a pussy-grabbing gag. But maybe that would have said something about us and now.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

5 thoughts on “The Odd Couple is an odd choice

  • Disappointing review – very biased with the authors political views taking center stage. Not sure how an overseas election has anything to do with an Australian stage show or

  • Is this a platform for political viewpoints or a theatre review website?

  • Sorry i thought this was a review of The Odd Couple, not your views on life at the moment.

  • Wholeheartedly agree with Jay and Felix. Came for a review and left thinking more about the reviewer with his “The new Star Wars ruined my life” mentality, with political connotations used to seem so elite.

    Greenslade is terrific, and the show benefits from funny-man Micallef playing the straight guy but also able to bring about slapstick comedy tones. It certainly doesn’t need all the politics even in 2016, and is better for it.

  • I think this review is absolutely spot on. Sexist, homophobic humour and numerous poor taste jokes about suicide. Ditsy blonde British girls – I remember thinking, are you kidding?

    It doesn’t show the slightest hint of self awareness which is odd given the number of people that must have reviewed and read the script beforehand – it’s literally a reproduction of something from the 60s.

    Despite some very animated performances the show was not funny. If they wanted to make a show that explored relationship breakdown, mental health and the complicated place of male friendships play then they could have adapted this play for more modern purposes.

    I can take solace in the fact that the season is over and that there are people out there who are fortunate enough to have missed it.


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