The Odd Couple Romp, Part 3
Actors have great instincts. Without being told where to sit around the poker table, they landed in absolutely the right seats for their characters. With the combination of stage directions provided by the playwright and the circumstances of the play, they naturally created the movement of the show through the story. All I've had to do, so far, is give a few suggestions of how to move more of the action downstage. Other times I had to get them to ignore the stage directions, as they didn't fit with what we were doing.
I felt a little like a fish out of water on the first night of rehearsal, less so on Friday and Saturday. Gord Ponak, who dropped in to watch the process for an hour, asked a great question.
"How much preparation did you do before the start of rehearsals?" he asked.
The truth is, that outside of reading the play and working with Sharon and Trevor on some design ideas, not much. The biggest thing was making the casting decisions. I ended up being in the envious position of having choices, which forced me to think long and hard about how to cast The Odd Couple.
I knew going in that I wanted to focus on two things: relationships and authenticity.
We are spending lots of time figuring out how these characters feel about each other. Put an small group of friends together and inevitably interesting dynamics emerge, of liking one person more than any other, getting annoyed by certain things, and defining yourself within the group. This is a fantastic group of characters who converge every Friday for a night of poker. The actors are doing a great job exploring the nuances of the gang.
We've added the poker game warm-up as a systemized way of getting them to explore their characters more deeply, even adding in the ladies (in character), despite the fact that they don't play in the story. Over the course of the next month and a half, they will learn about the game and each other. So far, it's been fun to watch, as great discoveries get made and the characters begin to form.
The other thing that is critical in doing this kind of comedy is authentically playing the experience. This is not about "I have a funny line and I'm now going to say it in a funny kind of way" or "I am now about to make a physical gesture that is going to bring the house down". No, the comedy emerges from the characters being in the circumstances of the play, understanding deeply how they (the character) got to the scene, what happened before, what they feel about what is happening now, and where they are going next. In living the world envisioned by Neil Simon, with lots of their own inventions and choices, a night of great comedy will be created.
By the end of Saturday's rehearsal, we had successfully stumble-blocked our way through the show. This week we will solidify the blocking, do our first stumble-through the whole show, and begin working through the scenes.
The Odd Couple runs for three performances on May 14, 15, and 16. There are a limited number of seats in the Recital Theatre so get your tickets early. Visit Keyano Theatre Box Office at www.keyano.ca/theatre.