Colorado Springs' Springs Ensemble Theatre hatch 'The Odd Couple'

May 23, 2013 Updated: May 23, 2013 at 11:30 am
photo - Steve Emily and Chad Siebert star in Springs Ensemble Theatre's "The Odd Couple."
Steve Emily and Chad Siebert star in Springs Ensemble Theatre's "The Odd Couple." 

The idea of the Springs Ensemble Theatre producing a Neil Simon play started as a joke between Steve Emily and Chad Siebert, president and vice president of the company.

Normally, SET wouldn't do a show like "The Odd Couple." Their seasons are typically filled with newer, edgier works, such as "The Land Southward," "Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter" and "The Pillowman."

Siebert plowed ahead anyway and read the script. He loved it.

"It's well-written and very funny," he said. "It can be dismissed as fluff, but it has heart. It's about friendship and hard times."

Simon makes money, Emily said, but he was worried about other issues, including how the company would be perceived.

"There's a stigma to Neil Simon, whether it's fair or not," Emily said. "He has this reputation, unfortunately. . For theater people who see a company pull out Simon, especially SET who is not known for doing that kind of show, there's a sense of 'Uh oh, they're in trouble. It's a money grab.'?"

In the famous 1965 play, the neurotic Felix Ungar has just been thrown out by his wife. Feeling suicidal, he turns to buddy Oscar Madison. The slobby Oscar, who is also recently separated, takes him in. They become mismatched roommates who clash over lifestyles.

After rereading the script, Emily eventually gave the production a green light.

"We want to show people a good production of 'The Odd Couple,'?" said Emily, who plays Oscar. "People have an image of a really bad community theater production. We want to remind people why it is considered a classic.

"It's one of the funniest plays to come out in the last 100 years."

SET's production of "The Odd Couple" will open Thursday.

The calendar also influenced the company's decision to program it. In the summer of 2011, the production of "Jenny Sutter," a treatise about war in modern times, didn't do well. But last summer's "The Underpants," Steve Martin's slapstick adaptation about fallen underpants, scored big crowds.

"Summer is a tough slot," Emily said. "It tells us (that) in the summer months, people don't want to deal with the heavier stuff, and let's look for comedies."

Art Carney and Walter Matthau originated the Felix and Oscar, respectively, in the original Broadway production, which was followed, in 1968, by a film with Jack Lemmon and Matthau. Tony Randall and Jack Klugman took their turns in the 1970s TV sitcom, which is likely where most audiences members draw a connection.

And don't expect any rejiggering of the classic.

"No gimmicks, no updating, no tinkering. Just perform it," Siebert said. "I think that's when companies get into trouble, when they try to find the spin on it. We'll play it true to the script, real and honest, and from that, it will be funny. We don't need to do anything to it."

Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.

Emory John Collinson
Cast: Chad Siebert, Steve Emily, Sarah S. Shaver, Emily Christensen, Warren Epstein, Michael Miller, Jeremy Blake, Matt Radcliffe
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, includes 15-minute intermission
When: Opens 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 p.m. May 31, June 1, 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22; 4 p.m. June 9, 16 and 23
Where: Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 E. Cache La Poudre St.
Tickets: $15, $10 student rush tickets available at the door five minutes before the show; 357-3080, springsensemble

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