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Theatre / The Odd Couple

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The Odd Couple is a 1965 comedy play by Neil Simon.

The premise is simple: Neat Freak newswriter Felix Ungar is kicked out by his wife, and with no place else to go must move in with his friend, sportswriter Oscar Madison, a total slob. Art Carney and Walter Matthau starred as Felix and Oscar respectively in the original Broadway production directed by Mike Nichols.

Simon rewrote his original play twice: first in 1981 as The Female Odd Couple, a Gender Flip version of the piece, and again in 2002 as Oscar and Felix: A New Look at the Odd Couple, which is basically the original play updated with more contemporary jokes and references.

The play has also been variously adapted into a 1968 film, with a 1998 sequel, also written by Simon; a 1970–75 TV sitcom; The Oddball Couple, a 1975 animated series (starring a cartoon dog and cat); The New Odd Couple, a 1982 sitcom with black actors in the lead roles; and a third live-action series in 2015.

This play contains examples of:

  • Adopted to the House: Oscar invites Felix to move in with him after his wife kicks him out, and soon comes to regret it.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Played straight with Oscar, inverted with Felix.
  • Ascended Extra: Felix was actually one of these, having originally been a minor offstage character in Neil Simon's first play, Come Blow Your Horn.
  • Bait-and-Switch: At the end of the first act, Oscar tells Felix that he's saving all the chips on the floor for his game tomorrow. Felix gets a vacuum and picks them up anyway. Oscar comes back in and yells, "Hey!" Then he follows up with..."I didn't know I had one of those!"
  • Book Ends: The play begins and ends with Oscar's poker game.
  • Control Freak: Felix, who has very precise ideas about things and frequently nags others into going along with them.
  • Family Theme Naming: The Pigeon sisters are named Gwendolyn and Cecily, after the heroines of The Importance of Being Earnest.
  • The Finicky One: Felix is the anal retentive poster child due to his obsessiveness with neatness.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: It's not clear how Oscar Madison is able to maintain a family-sized Manhattan apartment for himself and his friends, since the start of the play finds him running painfully short on alimony payments.
  • Goodbye, Cruel World!: Felix sends his wife a suicide telegram when she breaks up with him.
  • Hollywood Spelling: Averted; Gwendolyn Pigeon tells Felix that her surname is spelled like the bird, not the distinguished character actor.
  • Hypochondria: On top of being a neat freak, Felix is also a hypochondriac. He frequently keeps treating himself of ailments that he may or may not have. It was also noted that on New Years, he chugged a bottle of Pepto Bismol. It's just another trait that adds to his neurosis.
  • I Am What I Am:
    Oscar: You mean you're not going to make any effort to change? This is the person you're going to be—until the day you die?
    Felix: We are what we are.
  • Intentional Mess Making: At the height of tension between them, Oscar throws a plate of linguini at the wall and just leaves it there in order to upset neat freak Felix.
  • It Came from the Fridge: Oscar, whose refrigerator has been broken for two weeks, offers food to the men playing poker with him:
    Murray: What have you got?
    Oscar: I got brown sandwiches and green sandwiches. Well, what do you say?
    Murray: What's the green?
    Oscar: It's either very new cheese or very old meat.
    Murray: I'll take the brown.
  • Meet Cute: Oscar meets the Pigeon sisters he arranges his and Felix's double date with by getting stuck in the elevator with them.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Played straight with Oscar, subverted with Felix. Oscar's house started going to pieces the day his wife moved out. In a couple weeks, Felix manages to render it too clean for Oscar's comfort: "I don't think that two single men living alone in a big eight-room apartment should have a cleaner house than my mother."
  • Men Don't Cry: Felix breaks down in tears telling the Pigeon sisters about his former married life, then apologetically tries to pull himself back together. Gwendolyn says, "You mustn't be ashamed. I think it's a rare quality in a man to be able to cry." Soon all three are in tears.
  • Neat Freak: Felix. When he was married, his wife would clean the house and a maid would come in once a week to clean some more, but he still felt compelled to get up in the middle of the night and clean everything all over again. Oscar is the exact opposite (see Trash of the Titans below), which drives Felix up the wall.
  • Odd Couple: Why, they're the Trope Namer!
  • Paper Key-Retrieval Trick: Oscar does this when he's locked in the closet for some reason.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Felix and Oscar, respectively.
  • Shout-Out: The English Pigeon sisters are named Gwendolyn and Cecily.
  • Significant Monogram: "It took me THREE HOURS to figure out that F.U. was Felix Unger!"
  • The Slacker: Oscar.
  • Suicide Watch: Oscar invites his friend Felix to stay in his apartment after his wife leaves him, out of fear that he'll commit suicide if unwatched. Given their personalities, things go (comically) downhill from there.
  • Talk About the Weather: Oscar derides Felix for contributing only a weather report to a conversation.
  • Tantrum Throwing:
    • One of Oscar and Felix's quarrels leads Felix to clench a cup in anger. Oscar challenges him to stop sulking, let loose and just throw the cup. Felix finally gives in and throws the cup against the front door, shattering it and hurting his arm.
    • During a later argument, Oscar refers to Felix making spaghetti for dinner, and Felix starts laughing:
      Oscar: What's so funny?
      Felix: That's not spaghetti. It's linguine.
      [Oscar grabs the plate of linguine and flings against the wall on the far side of the kitchen.]
      Oscar: Now, it's garbage.
  • Trash of the Titans: Oscar, of course.
  • Wrong-Name Outburst: When Oscar wishes Felix good night, Felix answers him, "Good night, Frances." Felix doesn't realize what he's said, but Oscar does and is unnerved.
  • You're Insane!: After Oscar snatches the plate of linguini and senselessly throws it against the kitchen wall:
    Felix: You are crazy! I'm a neurotic nut but you are crazy!
    Oscar: I'm crazy, heh? That's really funny coming from a fruitcake like you.

The Female Odd Couple contains examples of:

  • Adapted Out: In the original play, Oscar has children. In the female version, Olive never mentions having any either living with her, her ex-husband, or any of their parents. Neither Florence (genderbent Felix) nor their mutual friends mention her having children either, and she sends money to her ex-husband because he's a gambler who persuades her to keep sending it to him, not because of any legal alimony or child support obligations. When Florence runs into the bathroom in the first act, Olive reassures their mutual friends that Florence can't hurt herself in there because that bathroom is the "guest bathroom", instead of it being the "kids' bathroom" as it is referred to in the original male version.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Played straight with Olive (genderbent Oscar) while Florence (genderbent Felix) is implied to be its inversion, All Women Are Prudes.
  • Bulungi: There is mention of a country called "Baggi", which has apparently existed since Thursday.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The Female Odd Couple, featuring Olive Madison and Florence Unger.
  • Family Versus Career: Implied in the female version. Olive (fem!Oscar) is said by one of their mutual friends to produce a successful TV show, and throughout the play there's absolutely no mention by anyone relating to her having children-Olive herself refers to what was the "kids' bathroom" in the original male version as the "guest bathroom", neither of her apartment's bedrooms is implied or said to have been a kids' room, and it's hammered in that her ex-husband wants more money from her because he has a bad gambling habit, not because he has custody of any kids. Towards the end of the first act, Olive tells Florence that she has "another career" in addition to her. Meanwhile, Florence tells Olive that she'll look for a job and be independent again now that she's geting divorced, and then later on fleshes out to the Costazuela brothers that she used to be a bookkeeper and then "quit to be a mother."
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Implied/Downplayed. Florence (genderbent Felix) is a prissy former housewife who loves cooking, prides herself on her cooking, and is noted for her cooking skills. Olive (genderbent Oscar), meanwhile, is a sport-loving career lady (this version of the play's set in the early 1980s) who late in the second act doesn't remember or even look to remove Florence's roast capon from the oven before it burns up past being saveable.
  • Gender Flip: The Female Odd Couple, which was about Florence Unger and Olive Madison. Supporting characters such as the Pigeon sisters are also gender flipped.
  • Race Lift: The English Pigeon sisters become the Hispanic Costazuela brothers.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Olive (genderbent Oscar) as the tomboy and Florence (genderbent Felix) as the girly girl.