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Rialto Players to present production of The Odd Couple

By Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer

This article was published March 30, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

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The Odd Couple, by Neil Simon, will open Friday at the Rialto Theatre in Morrilton. Appearing in the Rialto Players’ production of the comedy are, seated, from left, Jason Newman as Roy, director Shane Atkinson as Vinnie, Jim Bowles as Murray and Garrett Lenzen as Speed; and standing, Grant Douglas as Felix Unger, Karen Caig as Gwendolyn Pigeon and Rich Minick as Oscar Madison. Not shown is Ruth Minick, who plays Cecily Pigeon.

MORRILTON — A tale of mismatched roommates will come to life in the Rialto Players’ upcoming production of The Odd Couple, by Neil Simon.

Performance times are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and April 11 and 12, with matinees at 2 p.m. April 6 and 13 at the Rialto Theater, 215 E. Broadway in Morrilton.

General-admission tickets are $10 each. They may be purchased at the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce, at Atkinson’s Blue Diamond Café and Ice Cream Parlor and on the Rialto website, www.rialtoartcenter.com. Tickets will also be available at the ticket booth before each performance.

As the tale unfolds, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison are sharing an apartment after Felix’s wife kicks him out. Felix is the neat freak, and Oscar is the slovenly one.

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.

Shane Atkinson of Morrilton is making his directorial debut at the Rialto with the play. He did some directing when he was a student at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

He will also appear as Vinnie, who plays poker with Oscar and Felix. “His life is run by his wife,” Atkinson said of his character. “The only time he gets to go out is for the poker games.”

Atkinson most recently appeared as Rex in the local production of Rex’s Exes. He has also had roles in Deep in the Heart and Dearly Departed. He won a Best Actor award for his work in The Express Line at the 2009 Arkansas Community Theatre Association’s AACTFest competition.

“There are a lot of men in this show,” Atkinson said with a smile. “It’s a very good cast.

“Mostly men,” he reiterated.

Atkinson said The Odd Couple takes place in the mid-1960s. It’s a three-act play with two short intermissions.

“It’s reasonably family-friendly,” he said. “There are a few choice words.

“Most of us are old hat at this, but we have two new guys — Grant Douglas and Garrett Lenzen.”

Douglas, of Perryville, has been cast in the role of Felix Unger, and Lenzen, of Morrilton, plays Speed, a poker-playing friend.

Douglas is a graduate of Perryville High School. He attends the UCA, where is he working on a degree in business administration with a possible minor in music. He appeared in several musicals in high school. The role of Felix is his first role in two years.

Douglas said he can identify “a little bit” with his character but that he is “not at all a neat freak.

“I’m having fun with it. I’ve never done a Neil Simon play before.”

Lenzen is a sophomore at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton and a graduate of Morrilton High School, where he appeared in several plays. After he completes his general-education requirements at UACCM, he plans to attend Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge to major in music. He plays the guitar.

“I’m having fun with this play,” he said. “My character is very short-tempered and is always complaining. He just wants to play poker, but stuff keeps getting in the way.”

Additional cast members include the following:

• Rich Minick of Russellville plays Oscar.

“I’m the slob,” he said with a laugh.

“I’m not like him at all,” Minick said. “As a watchmaker, I am fastidious. Plus, I cook and clean.

“It’s fun to play against type. It’s good to get outside your realm of comfort.

“I’m having a ball. It’s nice to be a lead [character]. It’s always a challenge to make your character interesting, especially when it’s just two guys on-stage.”

Minick most recently appeared in Rex’s Exes at the Rialto. He also had roles in Dashing Through the Snow and Harvey. He has appeared in productions with the Encore Theatre in Lima, Ohio, and the Cocoa Village Playhouse in Florida. He has worked professionally in television doing voice work for commercials.

Minick works for Joshua’s Fine Jewelry in Russellville as a horologist and plays guitar and sings.

His wife, Ruth, is also in the production.

“She plays my romantic interest in this play,” Minick said. “We’ve been in plays before, but she’s never played my romantic interest before.”

• Jim Bowles of Morrilton plays Murray, the cop, another of Oscar and Felix’s poker-playing buddies.

“I just sit and play poker,” Bowles said of his role in The Odd Couple. “I don’t win a whole lot.”

Bowles has been involved with The Rialto Players since 2005. His first role was in Dearly Departed. His most recent Rialto role was that of Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey.

Bowles is a data analyst for the Acxiom Corp.

• Jason Newman of Little Rock plays the role of Roy the accountant, who is also one of the poker-playing buddies.

“Roy is cynical,” Newman said of his character. “He starts the show with a complaint, and then he complains when things get better.

“It’s fun to do this play,” Newman said. “It’s a Neil Simon play. You can’t go wrong with that.”

Newman has been in several productions at the Rialto, including Deep in the Heart, All Through the Night and the Arkansas Regional Community Theater Association competition one-act The Express Line. He also appeared in several productions when he was a student at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. He received an Irene Ryan acting nomination from the American College Theater Festival judges.

Newman is a systems-engineering consultant for Verizon Wireless.

• Karen Caig of Overcup plays Gwendolyn Pigeon, a widow and the older of the British sisters who live upstairs from Oscar and Felix.

“I’m the ‘mother hen,’” Caig said of her character. “I am very protective of my sister, Cecily, and of Felix.”

Caig recently made her debut with the Rialto Players as Aunt Carrol in Little Women. Caig has performed in productions at UACCM, where she teaches English.

• Ruth Minick of Russellville plays Cecily Pigeon, the younger of the British sisters and Oscar’s love interest.

Minick’s most recent role was Hannah, the March family’s housekeeper, in

Little Women. She has also had roles in Rex’s Exes, Dashing Through the Snow and Harvey.

Along with her husband, Rich, she has appeared in productions at the Encore Theatre in Lima, Ohio, and at the Cocoa Village Playhouse in Florida. She works in the financial department at Grace Manufacturing in Russellville.

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