Odd Couple swapping Victorian bridge evenings for New York poker nights

Micah Epstein and Raymond Shinn, the leads in the Copenhagen Theatre Circle’s next play, reveal that they share some similarities with their characters, and perhaps a few with each other’s characters

No, they’re not brothers! This isn’t, although it may look like it in the photo, the Copenhagen Theatre Circle’s version of ‘The Krays’!

But they are kindred spirits and the main stars of the CTC’s forthcoming production of ‘Oscar and Felix: A New Look at The Odd Couple’. The 2002 play that is Neil Simon’s tweaked version of ‘The Odd Couple’, his legendary 1965 Broadway comedy that was immortalised by Walther Matthau and Jack Lemmon on the big screen, and Jack Klugman and Tony Randall on the small.

While the ‘brothers’, Micah Epstein and Raymond Shinn, are playing two polar opposites, Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, in next month’s production – which begins on October 2 at Krudttønden theatre in Østerbro, and plays until October 12 – they do in fact have a lot in common. They’re American, they moved to Denmark for love and they played the two servant roles in the CTC’s production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ back in April.

It’s a testament to the current depth of talent at the CTC that two actors with bit-parts in one production can end up playing the leads in the next. And there’s almost a narrative there, like they’ve made a leap from serving the drawing rooms and bridge tables of 1890s Victorian England to inhabiting the living rooms and poker tables of 1960s New York – the focal points of two rather progressive and liberal decades.  

In a strange way therefore, ‘Oscar and Felix: A New Look at The Odd Couple’ can be seen as a companion piece to Earnest in the same way that ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ complemented ‘Hamlet’.

“The Odd Couple is one of my favorite plays, so I was delighted at the opportunity to play Felix in the Copenhagen Theater Circle’s production,” revealed Shinn.  

“In America, where I was growing up in the 1970s, ‘The Odd Couple’ was a popular television show. We used to watch it every Thursday night, and it was one of my favorite shows.  It is hard for me to read the play without thinking of those two actors [Klugman and Randall] in the roles.”

In the play, a suicidal Felix, recently separated from his wife, moves in with his best friend Oscar, a bachelor of many years. But the pair quickly clash over Oscar’s slobbish standards and Felix’s fastidious fixations, and hilarity ensues, particularly when they host Oscar’s neighbours, the steamy Costazuela sisters

Epstein conceded that he definitely shares some character traits with Oscar. “Typecast,” is how his wife put it.   

“My first spoken words in the morning are: ‘Honey, where are my socks, did you see my glasses,’ – always with the same response from the other side of the bed: ‘Check the freezer again!’” he revealed.

“And, of course, my clip-card is so dog-eared it never works in those yellow boxes. I end up spending more money on fines piling up like tax receipts. Not real crazy about poker, though. In fact my co-star Raymond is a four-ace maverick and taught the whole cast the game (careful folks!).”  

So, Shinn is quite the dark horse, it would seem, and would appear to have more in common with Oscar than Felix.

“I wouldn’t want him as a roommate,” he confessed. “Like Felix, I appreciate a clean house, but I can get very irritated when someone is bustling about the house when I’m trying to read and relax. And while Felix wants complete approval and thanks for what he prepares, I can be pretty content with tacos or frozen pizza most nights. I wouldn’t be the appreciative audience Felix is looking for.”

One member of the audience Epstein will be hoping to please is her indoors. “My wife keeps reminding me what she once told Spencer Tracy: ‘Learn your lines and don’t bump into the furniture.’”

It sounds like his biggest inspiration lives at home. After all, Oscar Madison couldn’t have put that better himself.

The CTC production of Neil Simon’s ‘Oscar and Felix: A New Look at The Odd Couple’ is playing for ten performances from October 2–6 and 8–12. To buy tickets, visit www.ctcircle.dk. Group discounts are available from tickets@ctcircle.dk.

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