Wednesday , June 11, 2014 - 5:03 PM
It is hard to imagine one of Neil Simon’s most loved comedies, “The Odd Couple,” without conjuring up images of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau who portrayed lead characters Felix and Oscar in the 1968 film.
But Bountiful actor Rusty Bringhurst said they won’t just be regurgitating impressions of Lemmon and Matthau.
“This is not your dad’s Odd Couple,” he said. “It has been a wonderful challenge to find our own interpretation of Oscar and Felix.”
Eric Jensen, of Farmington, is thrilled with the chance to direct.
“I love Neil Simon,” he said. “I would have directed any of his shows. But, this is my favorite by far. I think it is everybody’s favorite.”
Jensen said the film version of “The Odd Couple” was one of the first comedies he was introduced to and thought it was funny, even from a very young age. He has helped actors prepare monologues from the script over the years.
“I am really familiar with this show,” he said. “Now I have the chance to immerse myself in the really funny wit.”
Jensen is the artistic director for Off Broadway Theatre in Salt Lake City. He is often asked to direct comedies because of his expertise at incorporating physical humor.
“I try to make people laugh with different rhythms or visually,” he said, explaining that people who have a difficult time keeping up with the dialogue will still laugh with the right visual appeal.
“My mother-in-law is Vietnamese, and I know she will get a laugh from the physical parts. Everybody understands what the characters are feeling because they are showing it with their faces and their actions.”
For example, things can become funnier by speeding up the action, or even by slowing it down as Jensen does in a classic scene between Felix and Oscar.
Felix is a neat freak who has moved in with his friend Oscar — a divorcee who is somewhat of a slob. In one scene, they are in the middle of an argument and giving each other the silent treatment.
“I like to slow down some of the bits and have fun with it. Oscar is doing little things to mess up the house and Felix is doing things to clean up. It is like a pantomime – a lot of actions without words,” Jensen said.
This is Bringhurst’s second show at the CenterPoint Legacy Theatre and he is enjoying his role. “Oscar is a fascinating character. He was a struggle at first to identify with. The biggest thing about Oscar is that, remarkably, while being sarcastic and a slob, he has the biggest heart in the world,” Bringhurst said.
He began acting while attending middle school.
“I was 14 and I realized this was kind of my gig,” he said.
Earlier in the season, Bringhurst performed the part of King Henry VIII in “A Man for All Seasons.” John Adams played opposite Bringhurst in the lead role of Sir Thomas More. Adams was Bringhurst’s middle school drama teacher.
“He is my mentor and the reason I do all of this. Now, 20 years later, I got to be onstage with him. I have been very lucky with the way my acting career has played out,” Bringhust said.
Acting also led Bringhurst to perform in the improv troupe Laughing Stock. The same Jensen who is directing this show is also the head of Laughing Stock.
Cast member Jason Unruh, of Farmington, is also a member of Laughing Stock with Jensen and Bringhurst. He plays Speed, one of Oscar’s poker buddies. This is his first time performing at CenterPoint. He has been acting at other community theaters, like Off Broadway, since 2011.
“Speed is a guy who is not super patient. He is in for dude night and poker. That isn’t happening and it is driving him batty. Felix is mothering, cleaning, worrying about how it smells and cooking. Even though those things might be great, they detract from the poker game,” Unruh said.
Jensen said it is important not to read too much into the show, which is mostly a comedy. But there is a message about relationships. “The overall message is that people can get along regardless of differences. We always find a way to get along,” he said.
Bringhurst agreed that there are hints of underlying messages amidst all of the humor. “Of course, the show is hilarious when these two personalities try to live together. It shows that life is tough. Humor and love get us through the rough times,” he said.
This is Patrick Harris’s first production with CenterPoint. The Salt Lake resident plays Oscar’s overly neat roommate Felix. He earned a bachelor degree in math from the University of Utah in 2008 and graduated with a second bachelor in acting in 2009, also from the U of U.
After working his day job as a billing specialist, he enjoys being on the stage.
“Any chance I can get on the stage is always a good time. I can’t stay away from acting for long,” Harris said.
Harris and Bringhurst have been friends for years and were even roommates for awhile. “I think the chemistry between Oscar and Felix has been helped a lot by our friendship. There is a great mix of witty dialogue and good physical comedy as well. It has been directed very smoothly and people will have a great time laughing the whole way through,” Harris said.
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