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‘The Odd Couple’ looks to deliver ‘good, old-fashioned fun’


Neil Simon’s 1965 Broadway play “The Odd Couple’’ is coming to Cape Fear Regional Theatre Nov. 3-13 starring Marc de la Concha as Felix and Jonathan Judge-Russo as Oscar, and the laughs about two mismatched roommates are sure to entertain.

 And this is the only place around where you can see it.

After being onstage for decades, Cape Fear Regional Theatre will be the only theater in America where you can see a single Neil Simon play.

Mary Kate Burke, artistic director for Cape Fear Regional Theatre, said in August that she really wanted to bring the production to the theater, but when the Broadway show “Plaza Suite,’’ starring Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, went to Broadway, all rights were revoked to any Neil Simon play.

Burke and her team wrote a compelling letter to Simon’s widow, who owns the rights, tying in her late husband’s service as a reservist with our military community. It worked.

“We are the only theater in the country who have the rights to a Neil Simon play right now,” Burke said.

In an attempt to make this season at Cape Fear Regional Theatre light, easy and fun, “The Odd Couple’’ was placed as the second show, and both leading men credit Burke for their presence onstage.  

This is the second production of “The Odd Couple’’ that de la Concha has starred in as Felix, the neat, uptight news writer who finds himself without a home after his wife files for divorce.

The first was directed by Burke at the Millbrook Playhouse in Mill Hall, Pennsylvania.

“I played Felix in a production that Mary Kate directed around 11 years ago,” de la Concha said.

Undoubtedly a new Fayetteville favorite actor, de la Concha serves as the education director at CFRT, but he has also stolen hearts as Wadsworth in “Clue’’ and Donkey in “Shrek.’’ His recent regional credits include “An Act of God,’’ “She Loves Me,’’ “Guys and Dolls’’ and “Man of La Mancha.’’

And many theater patrons might remember Judge-Russo as Drew in “Music City,’’ which made its debut in 2018. He plays Oscar, a messy, easy-going sportswriter who finds himself living with Felix to save money. 

Judge-Russo, who works in television in New York City, said Burke called him to see if he would be available.

“I’d run through a wall for Mary Kate Burke, she’s the real thing,’’ Judge-Russo said. “Fayetteville should feel lucky to have someone of MK’s caliber.”

His schedule on the small screen with shows such as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’’ “FBI: Most Wanted’’ and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’’ have not interrupted his love for the stage so when Burke called, he was happy to see that it would work out.

“I try to do a play a year and this fit into my calendar,” Judge-Russo said.

Director David Hemsley Caldwell, who is undertaking his fourth production at CFRT, said this version of “The Odd Couple’’ is classic, and patrons will leave the theater feeling great about life.

“It’s good, old-fashioned fun and a nice break from reality,’’ Caldwell said. “Theatergoers can escape to a simpler time. This play is silly, in a smart way. It’s had quite a long life because it’s fun.”

The actors have “lovely chemistry,” according to Caldwell.

They agree.

“Being around Marc is pretty darn fun. He’s hilarious,’’ Judge-Russo said. “When working on a comedy, he’s the co-worker you hope to get.” 

Even as they play opposites on stage, de la Concha said off-stage they definitely get along.

“We have a lot of fun on stage. Too much fun,” he said.

“The Odd Couple’’ runs Nov. 3-13 with 11 shows over a week and a half period.

With the limited run, Burke said, “Get your tickets now. I mean now!”

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Fayetteville, Cape Fear Regional Theatre, 'The Odd Couple'