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Fantasy, comedy at heart of Folsom's Sutter Street offerings

By: Eileen Wilson, Telegraph Correspondent
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What do Bilbo and Gollum, and Oscar and Felix have in common? They are both odd couples that will appear on Sutter Street Theatre?s stage in Historic Folsom. Choosing the two shows, one an evening and Sunday run, the other a weekend matinee, may seem like a strange match-up. But the choices were no-brainers for directors, Allen Schmeltz and Connie Mockenhaupt. ?The Hobbit? ?I always wanted to do ?The Hobbit,?? Schmeltz said. ?I read the book many years ago, and I was enthralled with it. I don?t think I ever put the book down.? Book lovers haven?t tired of the fantasy epic that J.R.R. Tolkien published in 1937. The book was followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And with ?The Hobbit? making waves in Hollywood, this seemed like the perfect time to bring the story to the stage. ?It?s a great time to reintroduce the story, with the movie coming out this fall,? Schmeltz said. ?A lot of people already know parts of the story from The Lord of the Rings movies.? Schmeltz said audiences have been reading ?The Hobbit? for years, and this adaptation by Markland Taylor was written on what would have been Tolkien?s 100th birthday. The adaptation stays true to the book. ?They used a lot of the dialog from the book ? that?s what was attractive to me. People won?t be disappointed,? Schmeltz said. The fast-moving play, which comes in at under two hours, keeps all the elements that make the story a great fantasy epic that is, underneath it all, a story about good triumphing over evil. ?The Odd Couple? In addition to appreciating a good vs. evil story, how about a neat freak vs. lovable slob story? With Connie Mockenhaupt directing Neil Simon?s classic, ?The Odd Couple,? which opened last week, people should prepare to laugh at the outset, and continue to laugh throughout. ?It?s a Neil Simon play, and you just can?t get any funnier than that,? Mockenhaupt said. Probably most well known thanks to the TV sitcom in the early ?70s, the story is that of Felix, a neurotic neatnik, and Oscar, a messy sportswriter, who are thrown together as roommates when Felix?s wife kicks him out of the home. The Broadway version had famous casts including Walter Matthau, Jack Klugman, and even Martin Short, before Short became famous. But Sutter Street has their own star power, which will include audience favorites, Mike Jimena as Oscar and Warren Harrison as Felix. ?This show is a favorite for so many people. We get lots of requests to do it, and when we found out we could get Warren and Mike together, we knew it would be just perfect,? Mockenhaupt said. In addition to the show?s promise of a fun time, audiences are interested in seeing the play based on what they remember from four decades ago. ?There?s a nostalgia factor with the play,? Mockenhaupt said. ?People just loved the television show.? With today?s economy, Mockenhaupt said audiences are looking for entertainment that will make them laugh. ?We go to the theater to get away; to enjoy ourselves. People love the comedies, the mysteries; everybody wants a little escapism right now,? she said. With comedies, fantasies, and a great season on tap, Sutter Street Theatre is happy to oblige. * * * KNOW AND GO What: ?The Odd Couple? When: 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m., Sundays, through May 27 What: ?The Hobbit? When: 1 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, May 5 through June 10 Where: Sutter Street Theatre, 717 Sutter St., Folsom Tickets: Vary for ages and show Info: Sutterstreettheatre.com