The Successful Play
The Hindu, 24 September 2004 Friday Review
By Elizabeth Roy
EVAM HAS always been clear about their agenda. Last year it was four productions, each packing nine shows that promised wholesome entertainment. Often they pick well known and popular scripts that draw crowds. They give the production their best shot and the audience is won over into not remembering other productions (of the play) that they might have seen. They are always directed by Sunil Evam (and)Karthik,produced by Preeti Sanjeevi and presented by their sponsors, main sponsor for the year being Royal Sundaram.
Last week they launched their second year with Neil Simon's ``The Odd Couple," again a well-known script repeatedly performed and in a sensestamped by Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. The two-hour long hilarious comedy tells the story of a very special friendship and what happens when the unlikely duo team up. Oscar, adivorced sports reporter, lives in his eight- room apartment in complete chaos and plays poker with his buddies. Felix is thrown out by his wife and finds the situation devastating. Oscar invites Felix to share the apartment with him.
Felix with his fetish for order, cleanliness, cooking and accountability drives Oscar up the wall. It is worse than being married to the stereotypical wife. Though the essence of the comedy is the conflict between the two characters, it is Neil Simon's take-on-life-and-reality approach thatlifts the play to a higher level, making it an intelligent comedy. Quite suddenly without warning you see him outside the situation, steppingback to watch the action. This perhaps is the greatest strength a comic writer needs, to dissect the human being who he sees as his alter ego,to create humour from the lives and troubles of everyday people.
Incidentally, ``The Odd Couple" which he scripted in 1966 is based on the life of his older brother, Danny, who, after his divorce, moved inwith another divorced man and the situation became the set up for ``The Odd Couple." In Evam's hands it was two hours of mirthful laughter for the audience. The play's success goes beyond even the direction to the two main characters — Oscar played by Karthik Kumar and Felix by Karthik Srinivasan. They shared a chemistry that directors can only hope for. Their timing was perfect and they played with changing the pace, with pauses, with sulks and silences. Particularly from Karthik Srinivasan it was a brilliant performance. (Karthik Kumar's make up could have matched theage his physical body communicated). Audiences loved them.
The poker-playing buddies also contributed much to the success of the play. Jimmy, Iswar Srikumar, Nayaab Anwer and Manoj Kumar playedwell-delineated characters; they presented an interesting variety, a group made up of very different individuals. And this, despite the factthat the script allowed them to be on stage only on three occasions.
The Pigeon Sisters (Mili Chandy and Suzane Mathai) with a little more effort could have turned the hilariously disastrous scene into a classic as Neil Simon visualised it.The set design from Anil was elaborate, solid and paid attention to detail. Sound and light from Sunil and Amit were well executed and added life to the play. For the audience it was a good two hours of clean, intelligent entertainment and a great way to unload the tensions of the day. Evam is not quite finished with Neil Simon. In February they return to their audience with their mega production Barefoot in The Park.
And before that in November they return with two of their early shows — Art and Python Hysteria. That's more food for laughter. In the meantime ``The Odd Couple" will go into four more performances on the Septmeber24, 25 and 26.