The Odd Couple. There's not a lot of nourishment in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, which has been around since the mid-1960s, but the central pairing of two very different men who find themselves sharing an apartment, and the humorous way their fights and misunderstandings mirror those of regular marriage — or at least marriage as it was viewed then — still has some juice. Felix is the stereotypical little wife, constantly cooking, cleaning and fussing about clutter. Oscar's the manly, sports-loving slob. Having lived on his own since his divorce, Oscar has turned his large apartment into a pigsty. Even his poker buddies complain about the filth. Felix has been part of the poker group for years, but on this particular night, he's late. Turns out his wife has kicked him out and is demanding a divorce. We soon understand why: The man is a self-pitying, persnickety, suicidal hypochondriac, and Oscar soon regrets inviting him to move in. The play is tidily constructed and skillfully written, and the dialogue zings happily and speedily along. It does show its age, however. To enjoy it, you just have to accept the clichés about male-female roles, and it helps if you remember a time when cream cheese on date-nut bread was considered a brilliant culinary innovation. All the performances here are lively, but, of course, Oscar and Felix have to carry the evening, and indeed they do. Len Matheo as Oscar and James O'Hagan Murphy as Felix are terrific individually and extremely good together. Matheo doesn't overdo Oscar. This is a good choice, because it provides an interesting counterpoint to O'Hagan Murphy, whose Felix is crazy high-energy and a natural scene-stealer. So who cares about the play's lack of emotional or intellectual sustenance? Sometimes Swedish meatballs, cheese puffs and Lipton onion-soup dip are just what you're craving. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through August 14, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, minersalley.com. Reviewed July 31.
On Golden Pond. As this play opens, Norman and Ethel Thayer are moving back into their summer house in Maine. Every summer for 48 years, he's come here to fish and she to putter around, read, gather strawberries. This, their last visit, represents a slow, gentle fading. There's just a tiny bit of conflict. When daughter Chelsea — who's 42, with a couple of failed relationships behind her — arrives with her new boyfriend, Bill, and his teenage son, Billy, we learn that she harbors a great deal of anger toward her father. It's never clear quite why, though she does remember him calling her fat and ignoring her when she was young. Chelsea's angry with her mother, too, for not standing up for her. The problem with the 1979 script is that although Norman and Ethel are endearing, there's nothing particularly interesting about their lives. Most of the time you're watching cute bickering that feels like the dialogue in an above-average sitcom. Chelsea and Bill leave young Billy with her parents and set out on a trip to Europe. As Billy bonds with Norman, it becomes blindingly clear that Norman's big problem with his daughter is that he wanted a son all along. So when she returns and sees what has happened, does she weep, rage, rationalize? She doesn't do any of this — she can't, because her character isn't fully developed. It's always a treat to attend a play in the antique and elegant lobby of the Barth Hotel, one of fourteen residences maintained for elderly and disabled people by the nonprofit Senior Housing Options, a terrific agency. And in some ways, On Golden Pond is a perfect choice for the venue. But neither this fact, nor some wonderful acting — particularly Lawrence Hecht's magnificent turn as Norman — can ransom a turgid script. Presented at the Barth Hotel through August 30, 1514 17th Street, 303-595-4464, ext. 10, seniorhousingoptions.org. Reviewed August 7.
Shrek: the Musical. There are a lot of things to like about Shrek: The Musical at Boulder's Dinner Theatre. They include the Dragon, created by Cory Gilstrap and manipulated by a handful of actors. Blessed with the rich, seductive voice of Amanda Earls, she's a riveting, literally huge presence. And there are many other spectacular special effects. All the leads are excellent. Even as written, Fiona is no regular fairy-tale princess. But Norrell Moore takes the role several steps beyond whatever the script requires, endowing Fiona with huge amounts of spring, cheek and sheer verve. Seth Caikowski plays Shrek with a pleasantly slight Scottish accent, and the kindness and diffidence he projects provide a fine contrast with all the cavorting going on around him. In his furry gray Donkey suit, Tyrell Rae is the perfect foil, preening, whining and strutting. Trapped on his knees, his lank black hair falling around his face, Scott Severtson has loads of evil fun as Lord Farquaad. The script is by Pulitzer winner David Lindsay-Abaire, which means that Shrekis way less dumb than the average Disney musical and full of clever, silly references; a couple of moments are downright Monty Python-esque. Though the songs tend to be mediocre, they're delivered with such verve it almost doesn't matter, and the entire production is a delight. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through September 6, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder. 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed May 29.
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