Matthew Scott Moore

Rochester Institute of Technology, April 30, 1982


‘The Odd Couple’ Actors Master Mime And Gesture

Last week, RIT theater goers were treated to NTID’s rendition of The Odd Couple–Neil Simon’s hilarious play about two recently divorced men whose personalities and lifestyles clash when they begin to share a house with one another. Like most plays there were actors who portrayed their characters on stage through word and action. Unlike most plays, however, this one was presented in two languages: English and American Sign Language. From beginning to end, the actors on stage delivered their lines in sign language only, while a second cast of actors seated in a balcony with microphones simultaneously presented the play in speech.

It is a difficult task for any director to organize and control a group of hearing actors, but it is a remarkable achievement to organize and synchronize two complete casts of actors in a play in which each speak a different language. For this, director Patrick Graybill deserves a hardy round of applause. His fine direction, coupled with a wonderfully designed set, provided a talented group of young actors with the perfect environment to develop their respective roles. They could easily make use of the delightful humor of one of Neil Simon’s most comical plays.

Although the actors on stage didn’t use the spoken work to develop their characters, they effectively compensated for it by utilizing non-vocal acting techniques. Each actor was a master of mime, facial expression and body position. When these skills were combined with the spoken word from the second set of actors, hearing members of the audience were provided with an unusual theatrical treat.

The people that enjoyed the play most, however, were those who were hearing impaired. In the NTID Theatre they are the target audience, and the actors on stage were speaking their language. When phones or doorbells would, ring, the lights on stage would flicker, and telephones were of the futuristic video type. In fact all action on stage was carried on as though Neil Simon’s play was written for the deaf.

One unusual characteristic of a predominantly deaf audience is that the audience reaction to happenings on stage is not as unified as it is with a hearing audience. One thing the audience did make a point of doing in unison, however, was to provide a talented group of young actors with a well deserved standing ovation.

–J. Nortz

Photocaption: Meticulous Felix Unger (Matthew Moore) interrupts a poker game between Oscar Madison (Mike O’Connor) and friends in the NTID Theatre production of The Odd Couple. (Photo: Seward/Reporter)

Reporter, Rochester Institute of Technology, April 30, 1982

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