Somehow, during a misspent youth, I failed to catch Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" as a 1963 stage play, the subsequent movie with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, or the TV series with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.
Thus I could accept the present Geffen Playhouse production of "Oscar and Felix: A New Look at The Odd Couple," reincarnated by Simon himself, on its own terms, unencumbered by the recollections of past performances and stars.
Judging by some reviews of the current play, such ignorance may be bliss, and to me and the rest of the audience, the sturdy underpinnings of the basic plot line easily carried au courant references to cell phones, e-mail and béarnaise sauce.
Intact is the disastrous mispairing of the ultimate slob, Oscar Madison, with neatness freak Felix Unger, temporarily sharing an apartment after having been kicked out by their respective wives.
The big, shambling John Larroquette ("Night Court"), a master of the long stare and double-take, is alternately grumpy and hilarious as Oscar. Joe Regalbuto ("Murphy Brown") is a tad too prissy as Felix, but maybe that's what it takes to drive Oscar up the wall.
In a major change, Simon has replaced the British Pigeon sisters of the original with the Spanish Costazuela sisters as the lust objects of Oscar's desires.
The girls (Maria Conchita Alonso and Alex Meneses) barely seem to know enough English to master arrival and departure times, but their bodies speak eloquently enough. The ensuing mispronunciation and dialect jokes may not be the height of sophisticated wit, but the audience loved them.
"Oscar and Felix" runs through July 21 at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. Ticket prices range from $28 to $46. For information, call (310) 208-5454.
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