Theater — Chehalem Players Repertory to put on three-week run of the well-known comedy

For its fall season opener, Chehalem Players Repertory is producing the classic Broadway story of two roommates who couldn’t be less alike.

“It’s one of the best written comedies,” director Donna Gentry said. “The jokes are hysterical.”PHOTO COURTESY OF CHEHALEM PLAYERS REPRETORY - Mismatched - Felix and Oscar are as dissimilar as roommates can be, but their misadventures make for a humorous fall production put on by Chehalem Players Repertory.

While “The Odd Couple” was written by Neil Simon in 1965, a film version starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon was later released in 1968, so that’s when the CPR production is set.

The story focuses on Oscar (played in the CPR production by Gerry Birnbach), a divorced sportswriter living in an eight-room apartment on the Upper West Side in New York City — “Back before it was fancy,” Genry clarified — who gets together each week with his buddies to play poker.

One week Felix (Jeff Sargent) shows up and has just separated from his wife. He ends up moving in with Oscar, when it becomes evident they have very different personalities.

“Felix is a neat freak, Oscar is a complete slob,” Gentry explained.

So, hilarity and mayhem ensue in the plot that is supposedly based on a true story that was described to playwright Neil Simon by Mel Brooks.

“It’s hysterical — it’s a great way to start the fall season,” Gentry said.

One of the most exciting things about the upcoming production, she said, is the production set, an intricately constructed apartment scene.

For the production design the crew also visited thrift shops in the area with some successful results — from the Union Gospel Mission in Tigard the crew found a hi-fi console that was fully functional, and has been incorporated into the set.

Personnel involved in the production came from near and far to be a part of it.

“We had actors from community theaters all over the area,” Gentry said, citing actors from the Forest Grove theater scene and crew from around the region as well as local theater community members as well.

Another point that sets this production apart is simply its location. After almost two years of construction, renovation and code compliance work and a number of delays the Black Box Theater is finally back open and CPR will mark the first production in the revamped space.

The theater originally opened three years ago when CPR and Valley Repertory Theater were interested in putting on shows at the Chehalem Cultural Center. It has been closed while receiving several life-safety upgrades and was projected to open several times during the process, most recently in early 2015, but was pushed back by more required work.

Now it is complete and has a lot of changes — wheelchair access spaces, upgraded flame resistant materials on the walls, an additional emergency exit and new safety lights — that overall ensure it is a very safe space.

“If it’s the end of days, I’m going to run down to the Black Box,” Gentry said.

Some of the improvements meant a change in the seating capacity, so the space now holds about 35 audience members.

Overall, Gentry said, the actors, production design, story and location have combined to make it a phenomenal production

“I think it’s kind of perfect for Newberg,” she said.

“The Odd Couple” is directed by Gentry, who is revisiting the play having performed in a production in 1977 at a dinner theater outside of New Orleans, with much assistance from stage manager Robert Osterhout.

Besides Birnbach and Sargent, the play also features John Nunn, Chuck Weed, Jeff Zimmerman, Matt Simek, Kym Herbst and Julia Reiss Sargent.

The play opens Sept. 25 and runs through Oct. 11, with performances at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. All performances are at the Black Box Theater.

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