It was just a harmless portrait of a chimpanzee, but it locked up the cast for a long, silent two minutes.
It was opening night of the dinner theater production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple at the Wagoner Civic and Performing Arts Center. I starred as timid Felix to Dwight Miles’ loud-mouthed Oscar. Cheryl Robbins (Gwendolyn) and Sandy Charboneau (Cecily) were “the girls upstairs.” I have been doing dinner theater for over fifteen years; there is always something unexpected, delightful, or sometimes startling when you perform live.
During the tearful scene when my character Felix is lamenting his pending divorce, he and the two girls are sitting on a sofa at stage front facing the audience. The girls are commiserating in Felix’s misery while he shows photos of his soon-to-be ex-wife and children. Stage lights are directly on us and the audience is in the dark; you can feel people waiting for something to happen.
Felix: “This is the worst part of breaking up.” (He hands picture to Cecily)
Cecily: “Childhood sweethearts, were you?”
Felix: “No, no. That’s my little boy and girl.” (Cecily passes photo to Gwendolyn. . . Felix shows another snapshot)
Gwendolyn: “There’s no one in the picture.”
Felix: “I know. It’s a picture of our living room. We had a beautiful apartment.”
Gwendolyn: “Oh, yes. Pretty. Very pretty.”
Felix: (Beginning to sob. Hands picture of his wife to the girls) “That’s her. Frances.”
I pass to Gwendolyn a gag portrait of a chimpanzee wearing long blond curls, sun glasses and lipstick. Gwendolyn locks up staring at the chimp, lines shocked right out of her.
At long last, while the audience waits, Gwendolyn gets out her scripted response.
Gwendolyn: “Oh, she’s pretty. Isn’t she pretty, Cecy?”
She hands the photo to Cecily, who locks up in turn. So there we sat with our faces out at stage front while the girls try to compose themselves and stay in character.
They promised to get back at me—but they never did.
Charles W. Sasser stars in Neil Simon’s comic dinner theater production of The Good Doctor opening Friday, October 18, for a two week run at the Wagoner Civic Center. For reservations, call Margo Goodall at (918) 645-5515, or e-mail WagonerPlayhouseAssociation@gmail.com