That Odd CoupleSunday, February 16, 2014
|The Odd Couple, Raúl & Alex in Veracruz, 1964|
Moving from one city in one country to another, a few times, is a sure way of leaving one with blanks in events that happen in those places when one has moved on. I really never knew who Neil Simon was until recently.
While I was in Buenos Aires when Evita died I was not there when Perón was brought down.
I lived in Mexico City when Pat Nixon came to our school, was in Austin during the failed Bay of Pigs but was back in Mexico City and in a bus when I found out President Kennedy had been assassinated.
It was then, in the early 60s that I first met Raúl Guerrero Montemayor who was 12 years older than I was. He was born, perhaps in the United States or in Mexico. None of us who ever knew him were quite sure where. But we did know that he had a Filipino heritage, spoke 10 languages and looked very much like one of the sons that the first president of the Philippines, Manuel L. Quézon, might have had.
He was a friend of my favourite uncle Don Luís Miranda.
It was Raúl who educated me on the wonder of European films and good literature. It was Raúl who drove me in his VW to Veracruz for my first adult glimpse of the sea and it smells.
Most of us suspected Raúl was a closet gay. Being gay in those days was tough in a macho society. Raúl thus had a fondness for falling in love with women who were always leaving town at the airport.
If I happened to spend the night at his Zona Rosa apartment, after a late night of Antonioni and coffee at the Kineret Café one of my cousins warned me to “make sure you sleep with a book between your bum and your pijama pants.”
I can attest here that Raúl was always a gentleman and when he died January 9, 2013, I knew I had lost a best friend and an important influence in making me the man I am today.
Before I married my Rosemary in 1968 I had been staying in Raúl’s apartment. Having returned from my military service in Argentina in 1967 Raúl offered his apartment and helped me get a job teaching English.
We saw more European films, discussed philosophy, listened to Erik Satie and live a mutual life of bachelorhood before I met Rosemary and whom if I do remember might have bedded in Raúl’s loft which is where I slept.
It was a shock, but a pleasant one to have seen Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, with Rosemary, on its opening performance at the Art Club’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre on January 29.
Consider that I may have been the only person that evening who had never seen any kind of Odd Couple, be it on TV or in a film. It was virgin territory for me.
Listening to Sound Designer Murray Price’s mood music (all 60s jazz ) of the 60s and close to the writing of the play and its inaugural run in 1965 in Broadway immediately took me back to my mid 60s and my love for the West Coast Jazz of California and the cool jazz of Miles Davis.
There are those who see the two women in the play Gwendolyn Pigeon and Cecily Pigeon (beautifully played by Sasa Brown and Kate Dion-Richard) are there so that theatre goers of the 60s would not read some sort of gay interplay between Felix Unger (played by Robert Moloney) and Oscar Madison (Andrew McNee). All the men in this play and particularly as peformed by the cast including Josh Drebit (Speed) Joel Wirkkunen (Murray) and Alec Willows (Roy) give no hint of gay shenanigans. And yet for me it did not make a difference one way or another. It is a play about the beautiful intimacy (its ups and downs) that male friends share.
I enjoyed John Murphy’s take, Simon’s humor was all there. Set Designer David Roberts and Costume Designer Barbara Clayden, made sure that everything was right, from the stereo on a shelf to the three circular bladed razor that Oscar Madison uses to spruce up for the visit by the two Pigeon sisters.
The Odd Couple to me was nostalgic romp in my past that made me appreciate how I got to be where I am. Now if I could only figure out if I was Felix or Oscar!