Neil Simon classic is Oak's first theater production
The Oaks Theater in Oakmont — a single-screen movie theater built in 1938 — has transformed in recent years into a multipurpose entertainment venue offering everything from live music events and movie screenings to comedy shows, lecture speakers and brunch.
As of Nov. 9-12, the restored facility will add full-length theater productions to its repertoire, when Stage Right Productions presents four performances of the Neil Simon comedy, “The Odd Couple.”
Joe Wichryk II, the Oaks' manager and program director, couldn't be happier about the new addition to the theater's lineup of events.
“On a personal level, coming from a theater background and having been acting since I was 15, this is amazing,” he says. “As for the Oaks Theater, this is always something we have wanted to do since we first started our new programming. We are thrilled to be able to work with a theater company with such a solid history of success in the Pittsburgh area for the first show and hope to be able to continue the relationship in the future.”
Bill Ivins, president and artistic director for the theater group primarily based at the Lauri Ann West Community Center, O'Hara, shares his excitement about raising the curtain on Stage Right's fall production at the theater.
“Aside from the fact that it's such a beautiful theater, The Oaks has an actual stage, just the right size for a production like this, which means we won't have to build it ourselves,” says Ivins, who is directing “The Odd Couple.”
It also has a wonderful lighting system, he adds, “which means we won't have to construct towers, transport and hang lights, and connect it all with hundreds of yards of electrical cords and cables. And it has the charm of an actual theater — with great acoustics, cushioned seats, a concession stand and even a fully stocked bar.”
The theater also gives Stage Right an opportunity to reach a new audience, “which is actually only across the river from where we usually perform — but you know how we all are about crossing rivers,” Ivins says.
Starring in the mismatched roommate roles of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger that Jack Klugman and Tony Randall made famous in the 1970s TV version of “The Odd Couple” are Joe Schneider of Regent Square as Oscar, the slob of a sports writer, and Jeffrey Carey of Butler as neat-freak Felix.
“In addition to having the bulk of the dialogue, the two actors need to find and portray for us a love/hate relationship — which is at the very heart of the story,” the director says. “These are two men that make discoveries about each other, and also about themselves. All of the words are important, and Simon chooses them carefully.”
“The Odd Couple” is not a show in which actors can improvise or “ad lib,” he says, especially since Stage Right is honoring the original production as closely as possible.
That includes keeping the show set in the 1960s, with period costumes, props, furniture and set design.
Carey says a strong cast with great chemistry and the silliness of the script — including the “neurotic antics” of his character Felix — should make for a good show.
“I'm really looking forward to performing for the first time at The Oaks. It is a great space for performing and I think live theater will fit in very well there,” says Carey.
Kaitlin Cliber of Plum is feeling right at home in her role as Cecily Pigeon, one of the two “Pigeon sisters” (with Genie Evanko) who live on the floor above the two bachelors; Cliber also works as a bartender at the Oaks Theater.
“To be a part of the first theatrical production at the Oaks is so important to me,” she says. “I can't wait to bring this form of theater to the community.”
Jonathan Spatz of Indiana Township, who plays Murray the Cop, says he feels fortunate to be in the inaugural stage show at the Oaks Theater. “It's one of my very favorite locations for a night out,” he says.
The “Odd Couple” cast also features Mike Regan, Matt Wein and Bill Boag. Rebecca Moore is stage manager.
Wichryk says the theater is still working to adapt the space for more live, full-production theater performances in the future.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.