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The Odd Couple (Thursday, Feb. 19, CBS), series debut: Like CBS’ recently canceled The Millers, The Odd Couple (a remake of a ’70s sitcom, kids) is a case of a killer comedic cast (Matthew Perry, Thomas Lennon, Lindsay Sloane, Wendell Pierce and Yvette Nicole Brown) saddled with an annoyingly laugh-tracked, numbingly beige network sitcom. The song remains the same: Oscar (Perry) and Felix (Lennon) are old friends who move in together after their respective marriages fall apart; Oscar’s a slob of a sports-radio host (updated from sports columnist because, as you know, print is dead), while Felix is a borderline-OCD clean freak. Wackiness, etc. Despite his many post-Friends flops, Perry can still bring the funny, and Lennon (who will always be Reno 911’s Lt. Jim Dangle) is an underrated master of cuttingly subtle humor. Even if they don’t eventually overcome the show’s lazy writing, The Odd Couple will still be CBS’ least-terrible comedy. So that’s … something.

Two and a Half Men (Thursday, Feb. 19, CBS), series finale: The question isn’t so much “Will Charlie Sheen return for the finale?” as it is “Who cares anymore?” The end of Two and a Half Men should have been Season 8, Sheen’s last, when show creator/hack Chuck Lorre and Warner Bros. Television had 177 episodes in the can, so the sitcom could easily live on in $yndication perpetuity. But no, here we are in Season 12 (!), and they’re still printing money with Ashton Kutcher, the Ghost of Jon Cryer and no Half Man. So tease Charlie “Harper” Sheen’s possible comeback all you want, CBS—just get this over with.

Vikings (Thursday, Feb. 19, History), season premiere: In Season 3 of Vikings—aka Game of Thrones Lite, Sons of Anarchy With Swords or The Last Somewhat Historical Show on the History Channel—Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) is now the King of Denmark, having dispatched Horik to a better place (well, Gotham, where Donal Logue now resides). His first move? Attack Paris! Sounds accurate—didn’t a Dark Ages baguette turn up on Pawn Stars recently?

The Jack and Triumph Show (Friday, Feb. 20, Adult Swim), series debut: Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) and Triumph (the Insult Comic Doc with Robert Smigel’s hand up his ass) star as Jack and Triumph, the former child stars of a Lassie-esque TV series from the ’80s; nice-guy Jack wants nothing to do with show business anymore, whereas decadent Triumph will do anything to get back in—even pander to “the adolescent stoners watching Adult Swim.” Hey, we’re not all adolescents, Triumph …

The 87th Annual Academy Awards (Sunday, Feb. 22, ABC), special: What’s on tonight besides the fashion show that calls itself the Oscars: New episodes of The Walking Dead, Talking Dead and Comic Book Men on AMC; Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, Girls, Togetherness, Looking and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver on HBO; Downton Abbey and Grantchester on PBS; Bar Rescue on Spike; Total Divas on E!; and, if you must, Sister Wives on TLC. I’d also recommend the recent stand-up comedy specials of Iliza Shlesinger (Freezing Hot), Bill Burr (I’m Sorry You Feel That Way) and Chelsea Peretti (One of the Greats) on Netflix. We good?

Parks and Recreation (Tuesday, Feb. 24, NBC), series finale: So never mind what I said in January about the seventh season of Parks and Recreation being unnecessary; as series finales go, it’s been a wonderfully weird trip for NBC’s Last Great Comedy. (Trust me, there’s nothing funny coming in the pipeline from the Peacock anytime soon.) So long, Leslie, Ron, Ben, April, Andy, Donna, Jerry/Garry, Ann, Chris—and hell, maybe even Tom.

Published in TV

To be honest, I was dreading it.

Even though the Indio Performing Arts Center is the most comfortable theater in town (the angle of the rake for the audience area guarantees that every cushy seat gives perfect visibility; it has lots of leg room; and there are cup-holders like at the movies!), the ghastly fact is this: Neil Simon’s comedy The Odd Couple just doesn’t hold up in today’s world. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, his kooky characters and their navel-gazing were fresh, original and fun (despite their smoking, ewww). Frankly, I hadn’t realized how much comedy had changed with the times until we tried to watch reruns of Laugh-In a couple of years ago, and we all sat staring stone-faced and unamused instead of rolling on the floor and shrieking like we did back in the day. Many attempts to re-do Neil Simon’s work, some even with major stars, have bombed horribly in today’s world, because of those changes in comedy since this play opened in 1965.

But the Palm Desert Stage Company comes through!

Cozy in their new home at IPAC, Colleen Kelley’s troupe is directed by the uber-talented Jeanette Knight (one of the calmest directors you could ever work with) and gives us a delightful version of The Odd Couple that never wanes in its energy or quality. Did they tinker with the script? Who knows or cares? This production of the show works.

Of course, the first problem they faced was erasing the audience’s memories of the film version with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, two genius comic actors with an enormous arsenal of techniques that made their movie unforgettable. But this production comes through, again, with their clever casting choices. Lou Galvan as Oscar Madison, and Matthew Shaker as Felix Ungar, look and behave nothing like Matthau and Lemon, and therein lies the secret of this success. Where Matthau was a slob and a sloth, Galvan is an intense mess who’s too high-energy to bother taking care of his surroundings (and a sports writer to add to the problem). Where Lemmon was an obsessive and whiny little wreck, Shaker is totally sympathetic as a just-dumped husband and father desperately trying to put his life in order by organizing the environment around him to hopefully stave off his falling apart within.

These two actors beautifully contrast each other. Their physical appearances, first of all—the result of clever casting—instantly put the “odd” in the title. But as actors, they go beyond that, to shrewdly create gestures and moves different from each other. Watch the way they use their eyes. Watch Shaker sniff. Watch Galvan throw a tantrum of frustration. Even though their relationship is at odds, they each create a perfect marriage of technique and method acting. Bravo!

Though it’s basically a two-person play, the fun is multiplied by the supporting actors. The poker players, from the start of the first scene, make us wish they had way more lines, because each performance here is fully imagined. Peter Mins, as the accountant Roy, is delightful as an observer of the human condition who has learned to keep his mouth shut. Vinnie, played by Charles Williams Gaines, is great as the guy who is everybody’s friend. Alan Berry plays Speed (a nickname which is never explained, alas), a bright light who is focused and serious about everything from poker to being a Manhattanite. And the ever-versatile and brilliant Ron Young is Murray the Cop, whose tough New York street-smarts contrast with his ham-fisted card -ealing and his insatiable appetite for comfort food.

But the girls! You can’t take your eyes off them, and not just because The Pigeon Sisters are so pretty and brightly dressed in contrast to the men. Debbie Apple as Cecily, and Colleen Kelley as Gwendolyn (names clearly stolen from Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest) are delicious and fluttery and sweet and colorful; these two fine actresses could actually pass as sisters. They have worked hard on subtleties such as their head movements and their matching smiles. Of course, their similarity sharply contrasts the differences between Oscar and Felix. Their performances include an underlying layer of predatory yet breezy sexuality that makes them a little dangerous. Their British accents are perfect choices. We can’t get enough of them. If they appeared for the first time in today’s world, they’d have their own TV show immediately.

The set and costumes and props—all created by Colleen Kelley (with help from efficient Nick Cox and John Meyers)—give vague references to the ’60s, but without making the production “dated.” It’s a perfect balance to the acting styles, and the result is a comfortably universal feeling that doesn’t scream “period piece,” despite some excellent touches in the Madison apartment’s décor, like that clock.

Hard-working Colleen Kelley’s relentless promotion resulted in a truly packed house on Saturday, without a single seat left available. (Technically, this creates an interesting experience known as “polarization,” which causes the audience to react as one unit. It rarely happens in a scattered crowd. It’s what every producer of a comedy prays for, because each laugh’s timing and duration become identical, like a bullfight crowd’s “ole.”) This audience roared at the comedy—and Neil Simon held up just fine, thank heavens.

If you can get a ticket, you’ll be grateful. We’re already wondering if they will extend the run so everyone can get to see this play at IPAC, and maybe finally overcome their strange doubts about theater in Indio. It’s a showplace to love arguably Neil Simon’s best work ever, and a totally enjoyable experience as presented here. Just see it.

The Odd Couple, a presentation of Palm Desert Stage, is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday. Nov. 23, at the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., in Indio. Tickets are $28, with discounts for seniors, students and groups of 10. For tickets or more information, call 760-636-9682, or visit www.pdstage.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche—From Dezart Performs

It’s 1956, and the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein’s lovely annual quiche breakfast is disrupted by … the threat of Communists! At 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $22 to $25; $44 for the show and brunch at LuLu California Bistro on Sunday, Nov. 16. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

12th Annual Annenberg Theater Opening Night Gala Fundraiser

Andrea McArdle, Maureen McGovern, Donna McKechnie and Randy Graff headline this special fundraiser, at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. $95 to $295. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—From Palm Canyon Theatre

An eclectic group of kids compete for the big prize in the renowned spelling competition at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Broadway in Drag!—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The lovely Bella da Ball hosts this fourth annual drag pageant, as female impersonators vie for the crown in this Palm Springs Pride event, at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7. $35 to $50. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

The Chosen—From CV Rep

The award-winning play tells the story of two boys, two fathers and two different Jewish communities in 1940s Brooklyn, N.Y., at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 16. $45; $40 previews on Oct. 29 and 30; $55 opening night on Oct. 31. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

A Magical Evening of Luminaries

Don Martin hosts, and Christopher Marlowe is the musical director at this fundraiser for CV Rep featuring Kaye Ballard, Joyce Bulifant, Carol Channing and many others, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2. $75; $250 VIP. At the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower, 39000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

McCallum Theatre

Mummenschanz, the Swiss mask theater troupe, is part of the Palm Desert International Dance Festival and Choreography Competition, at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13; $20 to $65. Also part of the festival: A Man’s Requiem, by the SEOP Dance Company from South Korea, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15; $20 to $65. Renowned musical Anything Goes is performed at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 29; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 30. $35 to $105. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 2. $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein—From Theatre 29

The musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, though Saturday, Nov. 1. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Noises Off!—From Desert Theatreworks

Desert Theatreworks re-imagines what’s been called the funniest farce ever written for their intimate theater space, at 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 9. No show on Oct. 31. $25 regular; $23 seniors and students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

The Odd Couple—From Palm Desert Stage

Lou Galvan and Matthew Shaker star as the famously mismatched roommates at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $28; $25 seniors Friends of IPAC; $17 students. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-636-9682; www.pdstage.com.

The Rocky Horror Show—From COD Theatre

The campy rock musical that made “The Time Warp” famous is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 30; 7 p.m. and midnight, Friday, Oct. 31; 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2. Most shows $30 general, with discounts for students, COD staff and seniors; call to confirm times. At Theatre Too at College of the Desert, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; collegeofthedesert.edu.

Scrooge in Rouge—From Desert Rose Playhouse

The play has a cast of 20—but 17 of the actors get food poisoning. Of course, the show must go on, so the three remaining actors do the best they can; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Dec. 21. 28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Shakespeare in Hollywood—From Theatre 29

It’s 1934, and famous Shakespeare fairies Oberon and Puck have suddenly materialized on the Warner Bros. set of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; a hilarious farce ensues, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Nov. 21, through Saturday, Dec. 20, with 2:30 p.m., Sunday, matinees on Nov. 30 and Dec. 14. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Published in Theater and Dance