North Shore Center: “The Odd Couple”

That Oscar is no slouch. It can’t be easy to be the understudy in a play where the two lead actors that grace the playbill are so well-known and well-liked.

I mean, really, who’s going to want to see you instead of, oh, George Wendt?

Wendt’s sudden departure from Northlight’s “The Odd Couple” is sad, for sure, but Marc Grapey more than aptly fills Oscar’s shoes. Paired with Evanston resident and SNL alum Tim Kazurinsky as Felix Unger, the two men do a fantastic job with Neil Simon’s 1965 classic.

Is the material dated? I don’t think so. Replace the landline with cell phones and the record player with Wi-Fi and you can probably find the poker scenes playing out in just about any big city. Grapey and Kazurinsky, along with the “boys”—Peter DeFaira as the friendly cop Murray, Phil Ridarelli’s Speed, Bruce Jarchow’s Roy and William Dick’s Vinnie are a fun bunch to watch play off each other. Ahem, keep your eyes open for the “pickle trick.”

The pace of the dialogue was a little frenetic—at times it was difficult to keep pace—but Simon’s characters come to life early on. Kazurinsky plays the neurotic, I’ve-just-been-kicked-out-of-my-marriage guy to the hilt, and Grapey is able to pull off the cynic with undertones of sweetness and concern deftly. Not bad for the guy who just two weeks ago was playing the cop.

Katherine Keberlein and Molly Glynn are hysterical as the Pigeon sisters, Oscar’s neighbors—and it’s kismet that it’s Felix and not Oscar who truly meshes with their ditzy personas. Under the artistic direction of director BJ Jones, this show is well worth the trip to Skokie and a great choice if the parents are in town for Thanksgiving. Get your tickets now.

“The Odd Couple” runs through December 9 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. Tickets range from $25 – $72 and can purchased by calling 847-673-6300 or by visiting www.northlight.org.