‘Odd’ pair take the stage

Caleb Woodley, junior in performing arts, left, is Felix Ungar and John Flotho, senior in performing arts, is Oscar Madison. Actors are having their first full dress rehearsal for The Odd Couple at Fisher Theatre, Tuesday night. Photo : Jay Bai/Iowa State Daily

David Wise

Caleb Woodley’s house is a mess. There are baskets of clothes laying around. He procrastinates. One could say he sounds like a college student.

But beginning Friday, Woodley, junior in performing arts, will find himself portraying a character the near opposite of himself — Felix Ungar, an uptight, whiney, neurotic clean freak.

John Flotho forgot to apply for graduation this semester and last semester.

Flotho, senior in performing arts, will portray a character that’s somewhat similar to him — Oscar Madison, the messy and forgetful roommate with whom Felix moves in.

Together, Felix and Oscar are the namesakes of “The Odd Couple.” It’s the first play of the season for ISU Theatre. Oscar and Felix are two completely different men who decide to share an apartment after each has separated from his wife.

Felix is uptight, so the performer portraying him has to be tense throughout the show, Woodley said.

To prepare for the role, Woodley has been getting more active by doing a lot of physical warm-ups.

This can get quite exhausting for an actor, Woodley said. After rehearsals, he practices yoga and relaxes to relieve the tension.

“After I’m done [rehearsing], I have to take a bit of time and just relax and unwind after rehearsal, because I am so tense,” he said. “It’s like working at a high stress job. I can’t just go home and go right to bed. I have to unwind by like reading a book or something.”

Both Woodley and Flotho say they are more like Oscar, not Felix.

Flotho said Oscar possesses an easygoing attitude that Felix doesn’t have.

“[Oscar] is also very relaxed. He put’s on this aura of, or has an aura of, not a care in the world,” he said. “The little things and the details slide with him, and I think that’s the same with me. I’m more of a not-sweat-the-details fella and I think Oscar’s kind of the same way.”

Because the two of them are on stage for almost the whole show, the amount of lines that Woodley and Flotho had to learn proved a big task, Woodley said. They had to practice longer than the scheduled rehearsal on a regular basis.

Woodley said that even though he’s on stage a lot, Flotho is on stage more. The script is 90 pages long, and Flotho is offstage for only five of those pages.

“The hardest part of this role is memorization of the whole play,” Flotho said. “It’s some heavy work for two guys to carry the show. It’s always on my mind. We rehearse every evening for at least three hours Sunday through Thursday. And then, you better look at your stuff each for at least an hour if not more outside of rehearsal.”

“The Odd Couple,” a Tony-award winning play written in 1965 by Neil Simon, is often noted as one of the greatest stage comedies of all time. A couple years later, it went to the big screen in a film version, and later a female version, a TV version and more.

Jane Cox, professor of music and director of ISU Theatre, said the play’s comedy is one of the reasons they started the semester with this production.

“I think it’s a funny play,” she said. “One of the reasons we wanted to open the season with this production was because at the time we were choosing the season, and even now, a lot of people were losing jobs, and people were having to cut back in a lot of areas. So we wanted to do something that was funny to open and do an opening production where the audience would come and laugh and have a good time.”

“The Odd Couple”

When: 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Oct. 2 and 3

2 p.m. on Sunday and Oct. 4

Where: Fisher Theater

Cost: $8 for students, $15 for the public, $13 for seniors

Runtime: 2 hours, 30 mins. (with two 10-minute intermissions)

Since separating from their wives, Oscar Madison, a messy sportswriter, and Felix Ungar, a health-obsessed, clean freak newswriter, move in with each other only to discover their polar opposite lifestyles don’t mesh together.

Because of the struggling economy, the theater department has made ticket prices almost 50 percent less the usual cost.