Conway Community Arts to present The Odd Couple

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published November 10, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

The Lantern Theatre and the Conway Community Arts Association will present The Odd Couple at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again Nov. 22 and 23 and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 17 and 24 at the Lantern Theatre in downtown Conway. Members of the cast are, seated, from left, Tyler Orsak as Roy, Ike Ferrell as Speed, Jeff Ward as Murray and Chris Harris as Vinnie, all poker buddies of Oscar and Felix; and standing, from left, Laura Brinker and Pammi Fabert, portraying the British sisters Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon, and Shua Miller and Sheldon Slinkard, playing Oscar and Felix.

CONWAY — When they attend the Lantern Theatre and Conway Community Arts Association’s next production, theater patrons will see several new faces onstage.

The local community theater group will present The Odd Couple, by Neil Simon, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again Nov. 22 and 23, and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 17 and 24 at the Lantern Theatre, 1021 Van Ronkle St. in downtown Conway. The production is sponsored by the Edward Jones office of Grainger Davis on Toad Suck Square in downtown Conway.

The Odd Couple finds Felix Unger and Oscar Madison trying to share an apartment after Felix’s wife kicks him out. The play won the 1965 Tony Award for Best Playwright and Best Actor and was a nominee for Best Play. The stage version starred Walter Matthau [who won the Tony] as Oscar and Art Carney as Felix. The play was later made into a movie starring Matthau as Oscar and Jack Lemon as Felix and into a TV series starring Jack Klugman as Oscar and Tony Randall as Felix.

The local production of the play is under the direction of Trent Reese of Conway.

“This play features not only new faces but also a younger cast,” Reese said. “And there are a lot of men in it. I knew getting men would be a little difficult, but we were able to get several talented men to audition, and they are now part of the cast.

“These cast members range in age from 30 to 40, or thereabouts. I wanted to breathe some fresh air into the play. I haven’t changed anything in the play, but this production features two young men living together, not two older gentlemen that were featured in the original production.”

Reese is a 2007 graduate of Conway High School and a 2012 graduate of the University of Central Missouri.

“The point of the show, for me, is delving into gender roles, especially in the case of divorce,” he said.

“Typically, women are seen to be more emotional about divorce, but men also have strong emotions about it. I think this will come across to the audience.

“This has been fun for me to direct. I always try to put in my own fresh and new ideas.”

However, Reese is quick to point out that the play is set in 1963, and this presentation stays true to that time frame.

“We stay as true to that time as is humanly possible,” he said. “And that’s been a challenge. This production is not timeless, but strictly period.”

Reese is vice president of the Conway Community Arts Association Board of Directors.

The cast includes the following:

• Shua Miller appears as Oscar, a slovenly, recently divorced sportswriter.

“It’s very difficult not to do Matthau,” Miller said when asked about how he plays one of the lead characters in the upcoming show. “The part was written for Matthau, but my interpretation of Oscar is not a Matthau impersonation.

“This play is very well-written, and I think you will see a consistency from each actor who plays Oscar. Oscar is a real character.

“What is really neat about this play is the relationship that develops among these real people. The action does get physical, but it’s not melodramatic. It’s very funny and very touching. There is a good feel about the play. And it’s family friendly.”

Miller is a 1992 graduate of Mena High School. He attended the University of Central Arkansas in the early ’90s but did not graduate until 2008, with a degree in theater. He is an administrative specialist in the University of Central Arkansas College of Fine Arts and Communication and is president of the CCAA Board of Directors.

• Sheldon Slinkard of Conway portrays Felix, a super neat, hypochondriac news writer whose marriage is ending.

Slinkard is one of the new faces of Conway Community Arts. He is from Bentonville, graduating from Bentonville High School in 2009. He graduated in 2013 from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, where he majored in journalism with a minor in French. He is pursuing a doctorate in leadership at UCA.

“I want to be the president of a major university,” he said when asked about his future plans.

“I know Trent [Reese], and he asked me to try out for the play,” Slinkard said. “I did, but didn’t think I would be cast. I’m glad I got the part. I’m actually like Felix, so I can identify with the character. I’m really having fun with it.”

• Jeff Ward of Conway plays Murray, a New York police officer and one of Oscar and Felix’s poker buddies.

Ward, a graduate of UCA with a degree in theater, most recently appeared in CCAA’s production of Amateurs. He had a role in Kitchen Witches in 2011 and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in 2012 before joining the Late Night series cast of Circle Mirror Transformation in August. He is a member of the CCAA Board of Directors.

“I’m the dad of the poker-playing buddies,” Ward said with a laugh. “I’m always telling them what to do. I’m having a lot of fun with it.

“The play is a hoot,” Ward said. “It’s really, really good.”

• Tyler Orsak of Conway is Roy, an accountant and one of the poker buddies.

Originally from Magnolia, Orsak graduated from Magnolia High School in 2008 and from Southern Arkansas University in 2012 with a degree in graphic design and a minor in theater. He is the creative director of Preston Palmer Studios in Conway.

This marks the first time that Orsak has performed with Conway Community Arts.

“I did community theater in Magnolia and was in four productions in college,” he said. “I really like the cast of this play. Everybody is really talented.”

• Ike Ferrell of Conway portrays Speed, one of the poker players.

Originally from Alexander, Ferrell is making his debut with the community theater group. He attended Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School in Little Rock.

“I’ve been away from the theater for about five years,” he said. “I did a lot of theater in high school and really loved it, but I just haven’t had time for it lately.

“When I found myself in a position to get involved again, I took it.”

Ferrell describes his character as “sarcastic … he makes jokes at others’ expense,” he said.

• Chris Harris of Conway plays Vinnie, one of the poker players.

Harris made his acting debut at The Lantern Theatre in August when he appeared in Circle Mirror Transformation.

“That was the first time I had acted since high school,” he said. “I just jumped back into it.”

He also had a part in Amateurs.

Harris attended Morrilton High School with Ward, who encouraged him to get back into acting.

“My character, Vinnie, may not be the smartest person in the world, but he might be a poker prodigy,” Harris said with a laugh.

• Pammi Fabert of Conway appears as Gwendolyn Pigeon, a widow and the older of the British sisters who live upstairs from Oscar and Felix.

Fabert is from Melbourne, Australia. She has been in Conway for nine years and graduated from UCA in 2008 with a degree in theater. She also has a degree in social work from a university in Australia.

She is making her acting debut with Conway Community Arts.

“Theater is more than a hobby for me,” she said. “It’s a passion. I have worked in

community theater and professional theater. I wanted to get that degree in theater so I could put my passion on paper.”

Fabert worked with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in Little Rock and has just returned back to Conway after a two-month stay with her family in Australia.

“I will soon be looking for gainful employment again,” she said.

“I’ve done [plays by] Neal Simon before but never this one. I’m glad to be playing Gwendolyn, who is British. The British dialect is closer to my own.”

• Laura Brinker of Conway is Cecily Pigeon, the younger of the British sisters and a divorcee.

“Cecily and her sister go out on a date with Oscar and Felix and end up bringing Felix home with them after he gets into a fight with Oscar,” said Brinker, another new face on the stage of the Lantern Theatre.

“I’m having a lot of fun with the play,” she said.

Originally from Russellville, Brinker is a 2007 graduate of Russellville High School and a 2011 graduate of Hendrix College, where she earned a degree in psychology. She is a graduate student in counseling at UCA.

Tickets for The Odd Couple are $12.

For reservations, email ConwayLanternTheatre@gmail.com or call (501) 730-3653.

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