It’s disconcerting to find the Odyssey Theatre, long noted for adventurous work, presenting this most commercial of Neil Simon’s Broadway comedies, perhaps as a sop to its older, not-so-adventurous audiences. Simon has a rare talent for extracting endless crowd-pleasing one-liners from simple situations. If he tends to reduce his material to the level of TV sitcom, he can also suggest deeper issues buried under the relentless comedy. Here, he focuses on a pair of cantankerous retired vaudevillians, peppery Willie Clark (Hal Linden) and laid-back Al Lewis (Allan Miller). After 43 years as a successful comedy team, they are now estranged, and permanently unemployed. Willie’s nephew and agent, Ben (Eddie Kehler), has lined up a rare opportunity for them to appear on a History of Comedy Network television special, but the project is threatened by Willie’s long-nursed resentments. Lurking beneath the jokes is the sad tale of a couple of old coots who have outlived their times and commercial viability, being driven to accept their own irrelevance and loss of autonomy. It’s Linden’s irascible performance that dominates, with Miller, Kehler and Jackée Harry providing nimble comic foils. Director Jeffrey
Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 6, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: April 5. Continues through June 1, 2008

LA Weekly