Kerry Shale follows his successful one-man shows (A Confederacy Of Dunces and Herringbone) with a performance as the thirtysomething neurotic, Felix Ungar, in Lou Stein's revival of this Neil Simon comedy about two recently divorced men trying to share an apartment.
Shale plays the houseproud half of this odd couple. Suggesting Felix's myriad ailments, he retains the breadth of slapstick, but otherwise behaves with none of the exaggerated punctiliousness normally associated with the part. His finicky behaviour appears almost casual, as he carries on a conversation while circling the room spraying air freshener overhead, continuing the sentence as he vanishes into the kitchen to return the can to its proper place.Lou Hirsch, as the other half, presents an Oscar Maddison who has perfected a long-suffering appearance well in advance of Felix's arrival.
Yet in contrast to the movements of both actors, the lines tend to be formally delivered rather than spoken. This flaw is symptomatic of Stein's direction: much of the throwaway sparkiness typical of New York Jewish comic writing is absent. What remains is amusing (and, as Shale's Felix demonstrates, has scarcely dated at all) but, in trying to be universal, the production goes rather adrift through lack of definition.
Written for The Independent.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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