Elk River Community Theatre presents
The Odd Couple
at Elk River High School’s Little Theater
Tickets available at the door or online at www.erct.org.
Felix and Oscar in Neil Simon’s play “The Odd Couple” have become bywords in American culture for the yin and yang of relationships. Felix is the fussbudget who’s never seen a speck of dust he didn’t whisk to oblivion with his feather duster.
Oscar, on the other hand, is your classic schlub. Give him a couch, a TV and a pair of well-worn socks, and the man’s in paradise.
The conflict arises in this award-winning play, which hits the stage at Elk River High School’s Little Theater Feb. 14-24, when fussbudget and schlub find themselves crammed under the same roof.
Felix’s wife kicks him out. So Oscar kindly, if not a little recklessly, invites his pal to move in. Cue the disaster music.
The intermingling of divergent characters is nothing new for Elk River Community Theatre, whose current production of “The Odd Couple” is their third go-around with the Simon play.
“It’s a play people have asked for again and again,” says director Eileen Anderson.
So they’ve brought it back, and with it comes a familiar face, Denny Chuba.
By day, Chuba runs a construction company, the Chuba Company. But lately, on weekends and evenings, he’s been rehearsing the role of Roy.
“Roy is Oscar’s accountant,” explains Chuba, while throwing on a white shirt and pre-knotted tie for dress rehearsal. “I can’t do a New York accent, so I’ve decided I’m Oscar’s accountant who’s moved to New York from Minnesota.”
In the ERCT’s 1981 production, Chuba played Oscar. Now he’s one of the poker buddies who meets at Oscar’s apartment every Friday for beer, bull and cigars.
Chuba’s affiliation with community theater goes back to 1978, a year after he moved to Elk River. He tried out for “Arsenic and Old Lace” and won a lead role. In the play, his character discovers that his sweet-tempered aunts are, in fact, serial poisoners, who’ve remained close to their victims by burying them in the basement.
One of an actor’s biggest fears is dropping a line. Chuba remembers blanking out in “Arsenic.”
“I’m about to tell my fiancée I can’t marry her because my family is insane—and I forgot my lines,” he says. “It probably lasted a second, but in stage time it was years.”
Director Anderson remembers that early production. Her father, Les Anderson, had a small role.
“But he loved it. He was hooked from then on,” she says.
In a sense, she and Chuba have grown up together in ERCT. They’re part of the local theater family, which with this current show adds a new member.
Shahn Dilks, says Anderson, was a natural when he auditioned for the role of Vinnie.
Dilks has a different angle on the audition.
“I got a text from Kevin Hunter, the actor who’s playing Oscar,” says Dilks. “He asked if I wanted to give a presentation. I said, yeah, I can do that. I’d given presentations at work.”
Hunter met him in the high school parking lot. He handed his Dilks a script and announced he’d signed him up for an audition. And the auditions were going on right now.
“I was kind of dumbfounded,” says Dilks, an HVAC sales representative with a background in radio. “But you know, when I was in high school, I always thought theater was something I’d like to try. I just never had time.”
He read for Anderson and earned a space at the poker table.
“We’ve probably gone through seven bags of potato chips during rehearsals,” says Dilks.
“You don’t want to eat those chips,” says Anderson. “The chips are a prop. They’ve fallen out of the bag and been scooped in I don’t know how many times.”
But no matter how many times Chuba walks the boards at the Little Theater, he says on opening night, “I’m nervous as a cat. If I’m not, there’s a problem.”
Dilks is looking forward to his debut in “The Odd Couple.”
“I thought theater was something I’d like to do,” he says. “My aha moment was realizing that, yeah, this is something I like and would do again.”