The Play

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

The Odd Couple begins with a poker game in progress in the apartment of a divorced sportswriter, Oscar Madison. Although the apartment is spacious and furnished in good taste, it is quite untidy and filled with smoke.

The poker game, at present attended by only four of the six players, is a tightly choreographed visual gag. Vinnie is nervously checking his watch; Roy is watching Speed, who is staring at Murray, who is ponderously trying to shuffle and deal the cards. One usual member of this group, Felix Ungar, is absent, and the others are worried about him, for he is high-strung and prone to paranoia. Oscar, a rumbling, grumbling slob with apparently no worries, appears and offers his friends a choice of green or brown sandwiches, which he identifies as “either very new cheese or very old meat.”

A call to Felix’s wife, Frances, reveals that she threw Felix out and soon after received a suicide telegram from him. When Felix finally appears, the others rush to make Oscar’s apartment suicide-proof and scarcely allow him to go to the bathroom by himself. After the friends leave, Oscar attempts to calm Felix down and find out what has happened. Admitting that he is not easy to live with, Felix lists all the reasons why Frances would want a divorce: He has allergies, so that Frances could never wear perfume; he insisted that she list every expense to the penny; he recooked all the meals; he recleaned the house after Frances and a cleaning woman had cleaned it; he was kicked out of a marriage counselor’s office; and he is a total fussbudget. Feeling sorry for his friend, Oscar invites Felix to move in with him. Felix consents only after Oscar agrees to let him do all the cooking.

Act 2, scene 1 takes place two weeks later. It is eleven o’clock in the evening and another poker game is in session, but this one is different. The room is not simply clean; it is “sterile,” according to Neil Simon’s stage directions. Felix is happily serving refreshments and reminding the players to use coasters under their glasses. Murray and Vinnie like the new atmosphere, but Speed and Roy feel uncomfortable. The game breaks up when Roy discovers that Felix has washed the cards with disinfectant.

After the others leave, Felix and Oscar fight about Felix’s constant cleaning and talking. Oscar suggests that they both begin dating. Felix hesitates, but Oscar convinces him to have dinner with two sisters, a divorcee and a widow, who also live in...

(The entire section is 1019 words.)