The Odd Couple — This production of Neil Simon's jokefest, under the able direction of Michael Brindisi, feels mired in quicksand, despite the surefire punch lines. Ken Forman is quite good as Oscar, adopting the loosey-goosey gait of Walter Matthau's film portrayal and growling his lines with gruff good humor. As Felix, Todd Faulkner downplays his character's nervous mannerisms so much that Felix doesn't seem all that irritating. But Faulkner has Simon's timing down pat and generates giggles with his housekeeping obsessions. The cavernous Carousel stage is more suited to major musicals, but the famed poker scenes thankfully aren't lost, since the supporting actors each create crisp characters. Damian Buzzerio fashions a nicely boneheaded Vinnie, and Gary Littman breathes fire as the quick-to-anger Speed. Marc Moritz, as Murray the cop, is amusing as he frets about Felix's mental state ("A suicide telegram? Who sends a suicide telegram?"). Even the accountant Roy gets his chuckles, thanks to Richard Price's tightly wound presence. When Oscar and Felix embark on their double date with the Pigeon sisters, Katherine Puma and Nicole Greevy appear as Gwendolyn and Cecily, and twitter appealingly. While director Brindisi keeps the pacing lively, he rushes the pivotal moment when Oscar finally invites Felix to stay at his apartment. Without room to breathe, the import of Oscar's decision is lessened, and this undercuts some of the humor to come. Through February 23 at the Carousel Dinner Theatre, 1275 East Waterloo Road, Akron, 800-362-4100. — Christine Howey
Orange Flower Water — In this 95-minute one-act play, playwright Craig Wright expresses the nuts and bolts of marital confrontation better than he explores any fresh territory. The four actors initially walk out, one by one, and take their seats at the four corners of the stage, each person pointed more or less to the bed in the center. Having established the aura of a prizefight, we expect to see plenty of figurative fists fly. And so they do. Kathy (an icily cool Teresa McDonough) comes forward to sweetly share her love for hubby David. But that's pretty much the last time anyone has anything tender to say about a mate. David is soon seen groping his friend Brad's wife, Beth (Jen Klika), in a motel room. Round by round, we see each of the marriages take more and more body blows, as the unseen collateral damage to both families' children is noted in passing. Author Wright has a clever way with dialogue, and his scene structure is both good and original, but what's good isn't original and what's original isn't good. Director Sean McConaha brings strong performances out of his talented cast, especially Mark Mayo, who is both brash and wounded as David. But there are too many missed opportunities, including David's concluding monologue, which reaches for profundity but only achieves maudlin banality: "We keep hurting each other, but love still happens." Cue Céline Dion. Through February 9 at The Bang and the Clatter Theatre Company, 140 East Market Street, Akron, 330-606-5317. — Howey
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