Actor Tim Newell has played a long list of idiosyncratic characters, from Jack Benny to Richard III to Templeton the Rat. Currently, he is taking on the persona of one of the most beloved and neurotic characters in American comedy, fastidious Felix Unger, the domestic half of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, opening April 23 at the Jewish Repertory Theatre. In the play, Felix has been thrown out by his wife and takes refuge in the home of his best friend, Oscar Madison, who is a total slob.
“To describe him,” says Newell, “I’d have to say [Felix is] complex; probably more so than people seem to realize. I find him to be very real, and not a caricature; and the circumstances he’s facing at this moment in the time of the play are painfully real. Divorce—or any breakup—is terribly painful, and in this pain, we tend to turn inward and to a darkness no one can fully comprehend.”
Okay then. That’s the actor’s reality and the kind of character analysis that has made Newell a mainstay of Shakespeare in Delaware Park, where he is a perennial favorite. The only pain that audiences are likely to experience at The Odd Couple, however, is the pain that comes from laughing until it hurts. Newell has amazing comic timing and an innate capacity to tickle even the most unlikely laughs from a script. In life, he is always ready with a clever quip and has a capacity to make the world smile. Here, he submits to The Public Questionnaire.
What word would your friends use to describe you? Faithful.
What quality in your current character is most unlike your own personality? Wow. Felix and I are all too similar, but I’d have to say his hypochondria. I’m not a hypochondriac.
What quality in your current role is most like your own personality? My house is always “company ready.”
When and where were you the happiest? When? The first time I’d visited Florida. Where? Disney World.
What is your idea of hell on earth? Living in an apartment without doors and windows, and below people who stomp when they walk across their floor/my ceiling. All. Damn. Day. And. Night.
What is your greatest fear? Failure. It’s downright crippling sometimes.
Which talent do you most wish you had? To be able to tap dance.
What superpower do you most wish you had? Flight.
What would you change about your appearance? My eyes, I guess. I wish they were blue.
What trait do you most dislike in others? Oh, god…there isn’t enough space in this article. Still, if I have to pin it down to just one, I’d have to say insincerity.
What do you most value in your friends? Their acceptance and patience and understanding.
What quality do you most value in a good director? Their ability to call an actor out on their “bad actor habits” and/or their “bag of tricks.” Derek Campbell comes to mind.
What is your guilty pleasure? Consuming mass quantities of sugar.
Who is your favorite fictional hero? Ellen Ripley. Bar none.
Who are your real-life heroes? Well, there are two: William H. Macy and Gary Oldman.
What do you consider to be the most overrated virtue? Righteousness.
On what occasion do you lie? When I’m invited to go do something, but don’t want to be around certain people.
What was the subject of your last Google search? Men’s fashions of the 1960s. And that was to satiate my being right.
If you come back in another life, what person or thing would you like to be? A great blue heron.
What role, in which you will never be cast, is perfect for you? Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
What is your motto? ”If you have no expectations, you can never have a disappointment.” Thank you, Mr. Sondheim. Now, if only I could practice this a little more…