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'The Odd Couple' takes the stage at Peoria Players

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When Lana Warner starred in the female version of “The Odd Couple” last year at Conklin’s Barn II Dinner Theatre in Goodfield, she began to realize what a gem of a comedy it truly is, how it can cross gender lines with ease and be a show to which most people can relate.

So, when she got the chance to directed the original version of the Neil Simon classic at Peoria Players Theatre, she grabbed it.

“I just really thought it would be a good step to direct this show, since I am very familiar with it and therefore felt like I could do it justice,” Warner said. “That also helped that I just love that show.”

“The Odd Couple, which follows the antics of two unlikely friends  ̶  the slob Oscar Madison and the neatnik Felix Unger  ̶  opens a seven-show run Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Peoria Players, 4300 N. University St., and continues through Oct. 12.

Until she performed in the female version opposite Mary Simon at Conklin’s, Warner didn’t realize how much alike the two versions are. That helped with her schedule because during the first four weeks of rehearsal she was pulling double duty; she also was starring in a show at Conklin’s called “Is There Life After 50?”

“If I didn’t know and love the show so much, I’m just not sure if I could’ve handled it,” she said, chuckling. “Of course, when you love doing theatre you always find a way,” added Warner, a veteran performer on stages throughout the Peoria and now directing her third show.

She said she believes “The Odd Couple” appeals to audience because it is about two guys who are similar to people most of us know and in a friendship many of us are familiar with.

“These are guys we all know or even share traits with. One is a slob, doesn’t care about neatness and just wants to enjoy life. The other is nervous, can’t stand mess and disorganization. These two people are so different and yet by the end their good traits start to run off on each other. Felix becomes less neurotic and Oscar becomes more organized,” she said.

Warner said she lucked out with her cast. Nate Downs, who has no problems characterizing himself as a slob, portrays Oscar Madison. “It is a bit of type-casting, but Nate is such a good actor. I knew he’d do a fine job,” she said.

She was more surprised by how well Dave Schick, who portrays Felix, did at auditions. “I knew he was a good actor, but I didn’t realize how funny he could be. He’s hilarious. I knew the first time they read at auditions they would be great together,” Warner said.

People who may complain about how many times they’ve seen “The Odd Couple” should see this production, Warner said. “They have not seen these two together. It is a special treat,” she said.

She lauded the rest of the cast, as well. They include Shane Pankey as Murray, Joel Shoemaker as Roy, Jim Willard as Speed, Vinnie as Ben Maxwell, and Trish Ballard and Kate Kennedy as the Pigeon sisters, Gwen and Cecily.

“Our poker players are wonderful. The Pigeon sisters are so cut and funny. I like to say Dave and Nate are the cake, the poker players are the frosting and the girls are the cherries on top. We’re having so much fun,” Warner said.

 Ticket prices are $12 for adults and $9 for students 18 and under. They can be purchased online at www.peoriaplayers.org or by calling (309) 688-4473.

 

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).