The close knit members of the Rockaway Theatre Company are not afraid to stay with the tried and true. Neil Simon’s comedies always delight the audience. They are more than clever and offer an unmistakable New York City sensibility.
On Friday night, the stage was aglow with the perpetually sloppy world of Oscar Madison, his complaining cronies and torturously tidy Felix Unger. Several songs from ‘60s’ sitcoms serenade us before curtain.
As the show begins we are whisked back in time to a simpler era. Yes, to a bunch of guys playing poker on a sweltering summer’s night. How sad if Neil Simon had written his masterpiece under a millennium microscope. Sloppy Oscar would be a compulsive hoarder and Felix would be an obsessive germophobe.
Instead the cast remains true to this often facetious, always funny script. As Oscar, Bernard Bosio is a natural. He fearlessly plunges into the role until he is thoroughly immersed. At one point, his rage against neat freak Felix is so intense that his face actually turns beet red. Outstanding!
Meanwhile David Risley as Felix brings the audience to hysterical laughter when brandishing his ladle and then during his unusual conquest of the lovely and somewhat easy Pigeon Sisters. Both Gwendolyn (Susan Corning) and Cecily (Kim Simek) have the brightly contagious smiles and good nature that their roles demand.
The chronically complaining card players at the weekly poker game are Speed (Joseph Canizio), Murray the Cop (Jose Velez), Roy (Frank Freeman) and Vinnie (Norman Scott). Whether chomping on cigars, whining about their wives, criticizing each other or succumbing to Felix’s and Oscar’s histrionics, they are a joy to watch.
Directors Peggy Page and Michael Wotypka, along with Producer Susan Jasper, have maximized their talented cast for this beloved comedy. Even the set becomes a familiar character. In Act I, it is the slovenly site of Oscar’s world. In Act II, it transforms into the spotlessly clean, uptight planet in which Felix endures.
There is never too much Neil Simon on Queens stages. There’s just one more week at the Gateway National Recreation Area (The Post Theatre at Fort Tilden) in Rockaway. Call 718-374-6400 or check www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org.
The holiday spirit will only grow stronger on our local stages. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.