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Review: The Odd Couple

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By John Baggett

For over 50 years, audiences have been entertained by the story of loveable slob Oscar and neurotic neat freak Felix, be it on stage, on the big screen, or on television. As the 69th season for Tyler Civic Theatre draws to a close, they are not just bringing these characters back to the stage, they’re doing it twice. It’s a battle of the sexes as TCT presents the male and female versions of Neil Simon’s classic, “The Odd Couple.”

The story centers around Oscar (Sean Holliday) and Felix (Regi Fowler). Oscar is a recently divorced, somewhat slobby sportswriter who lives alone in his New York apartment. There he holds frequent poker games with his friends Murray the Cop (Dan Trent), gruff Speedy (Jack Ragland), accountant Roy (Jim Tindall), and time conscientious Vinny (Ryan Anderson). Missing from the group is Oscar’s oldest, dearest friend, the neurotic, neat freak, and hypochondriac, Felix.

During the game, Felix’s wife calls to tell them that he is missing, the group worries but Oscar tries to focus on the game. But when Oscar lets it slip that she has thrown Felix out and that he sent a “suicide telegram,” they panic until finally Felix shows up at the game and breaks down.

Oscar extends to Felix a spare bedroom and an offer to move in. Felix accepts and takes to cooking and cleaning every day. Slowly, the gestures begin to drive Oscar and everyone else, crazy. Oscar hopes he can get Felix to snap out of it and become a changed man. Even going so far as to talking him into a double date with fellow tenants, the Pigeon sisters, Cecile (Brenda Korichh and Gwendolyn (Tricia Thorn-Leeson). But when hints don’t go to Oscar’s planning, he begins to see why Felix might be getting a divorce.

“The Odd Couple” was written by Neil Simon, one of the best known comedic playwrights of the 20th Century. His works have been performed all over the world and adapted for the big screen and the small screen. This show may be his most widely known. The Male Version for Tyler Civic Theatre is directed by Ray Dark, a TCT veteran making his directorial debut. Dark assembled a wonderful cast that really does justice to this classic material.

As our leads, Fowler and Holliday are absolutely hysterical. Both of these men make these time honored characters and make them their own, while bringing out what has always made them loveable since Neil Simon committed their names to paper. Both give performances that will leave your face sore and warm from laughter.

The rest of the cast is just as wonderful. Trent, Ragland, Anderson, and Tindall are equally fantastic, each getting laughs on their own and coming off as a real group of guys that would get together to play cards. As the only two women in the cast, Thorn-Leeson and Korch are great and hold their own with our Oscar and Felix. If their scenes together don’t leave you in stitches, you might need to check you pulse.

“The Odd Couple (Male Version)” is a delightfully hysterical play that definitely sets the bar high for the female version next week. While I do encourage you to attend both versions of this show, I will definitely say if you only see this version you’re going to have a good time. With only a short run for the male version, you shouldn’t wait. I think the men did a fantastic job, and I am just as excited to see what the ladies do when their version opens up next week.

“The Odd Couple (Male Version” opens Friday, May 4 and runs through Sunday, May 6. “The Odd Couple (Female Version)” will open on Thursday, May 10 and run through Sunday, May 13 at Tyler Civic Theatre located at 400 Rose Park Drive. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (903) 592-0561 or go to http://tylercivictheatre.com/production/2017-2018/the-odd-couple

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Concerts

Cowan Center: The Color of Purple & More

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Wondering what will be showing at the Cowan Center in the next year? The center unveiled their lineup for the upcoming season Thursday. Eighteen live events are planned for the 2019-2020 season for the University of Texas at Tyler Cowan Center.

Season tickets and individual tickets can be purchased by calling the Cowan Center box office at (903)566-7424 or visiting in person 9am-4pm Monday-Friday. You can also purchase tickets online at cowancenter.org.

All events are performed in the Cowan Center located on the campus of The University of Texas at Tyler, 3900 University Boulevard – FAC 1120, Tyler. More information about the new season can be found at CowanCenter.org.

The upcoming season’s acts are:

For more events, check out EGuideMagazine.com ‘s entire

 

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Theatre

Review: A Mind of My Own

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By John Baggett

Did you know that every decision you make is either an example of left brain or right brain thinking? All of them – how you put on your socks and shoes, how you pour a bowl of cereal, how to talk to a girl, I do mean all of them. It is this dichotomy that is the subject of the first play of the new season at Tyler Civic Theatre and the winner of the 2019 New Play Festival, the hilarious comedy – “A Mind of My Own.”

“A Mind of My Own” is the story of Ross (Luke Pearson), a teenager whose every decision is an absolute struggle. This is because there is a war inside his head between the two sides of his brain – Left (Jessica Fite) and Right (Sarah Pharr). Left Brain is more analytical,  strict, and rigid while Right Brain is more free spirited, creative, and emotional. Their tug of war over every decision forces Ross to live his life unable to make a decision at all.

The only thing he has been able to decide on is that he has the biggest crush on his classmate, Shira (Layla Wragg). No matter what side of his brain is in control, one thing is clear – Ross is hopeless. Every time he is around her he turns into a babbling wreck. When his friends August (Johnathan Hodges) and Barry (Zach Combs) try to step in and help, it just makes matters worse. If Ross is going to open up his heart to Shira, he’s going to need all the help he can get.

“A Mind of My Own” was written by Lila Katz. This is her first produced play, and one thing is very clear – she can write. I actually have gotten to see this story performed twice – once at the New Play Festival in which the show was read aloud and the fully realized production. Both versions managed to nail Katz’s humor and heart, which is all over this story.

The production is directed by Hannah Claire, who previously directed “The Disappearance of Maud Crawford” and, most recently, “The Taming of the Shrew” for Tyler Civic Theatre and she assembled a perfect cast to bring this show to life.

As Ross, Pearson delivers a knockout performance. He makes his character incredibly real and uncomfortably relatable because I’m pretty sure I’ve been in Ross’s shoes more than once in my life. He’s also got great comedic chops and I hope he continues to do shows in the future. Wragg, in her first production at Tyler Civic, is great as Shirah, who is more than just “the love interest.” Her character is smart and self-driven, as well as incredibly aware of Ross’s crush. She’s got some good acting chops and I hope to see her on the Civic stage in future shows.

Hodges and Combs are fantastic as August and Barry. Hodges, also in his first role at TCT, is cocky and smarmy in all the right ways, almost like the villain in an 80s comedy. He does a wonderful job and I hope to see him in future shows. Combs, fresh from performing in “Newsies” just a few weeks ago, is absolutely hilarious. He has great, natural comic timing and absolutely steals one of the scenes.

Which brings me to the Brain. Fite and Pharr are incredible. They practically steal the show, especially Pharr who is not afraid to go for it, delivering an absolute laugh out loud performance. Fite’s character is the straight man in the pair, the Abbott to Pharr’s Costello, but that’s not to say she isn’t a delight to watch. I could watch these two go back and forth all day, but I’ll settle for what I got.

“A Mind of My Own” is a great show. It may have been written by a teen and performed by (mostly) teens, but the themes of this show are universal and everyone will get something out of it. It may be about being an awkward, love struck teen, something we’ve all been; but the examination of right vs. left brain thinking is genius. Katz has a talent beyond her years, and I feel like she is only getting started.

My only criticism of the show is that it’s too short. When I say that, I don’t mean that the show is rushing to tell its story. It gets everything across perfectly and there isn’t a wasted second on the stage. What I mean is I want more of this world Katz has created. I want more adventures of Ross and his brain. So, I appeal to Lila, please, give me more – sequels, spin offs, a series of short film, maybe a Netflix series. Just give me more.

“A Mind of My Own” is a great show; funny, intelligent, and incredibly heartfelt. It’s another shining example of the great collection of young talent.  Also, it’s only running for a single weekend, so I would take full advantage and come see this show while you can. This is another one of those Tyler Civic Theatre productions that if you miss it, you’ll regret it.

Tyler Civic Theatre is located at 400 Rose Park Drive in Tyler. This play is has a short run, August 29th-September 1st at 7:30pm. For more information or to purchase tickets go to https://www.tylercivictheatre.com/?fbclid=IwAR0rvLg24nEODcZiXkHhYYNrBitcc2pfQSrzf3cSbpS194kZbGXfo4IDN7Q

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