'The Odd Couple'

'Wheel of Fortune' host Pat Sajak, left, plays neat freak Felix Unger to Joe Moore's slob Oscar Madison in Neil Simon's comedy 'The Odd Couple' at Connecticut Repertory Theatre's Nutmeg Summer Series at UConn in Storrs June 21-July 7. (Bob Copley / June 14, 2012)

"We've only had two days living together up here," says Sajak. "Talk to us after the run."

When it came time to decide which one should play Felix, the compulsive cleaner, or Oscar the slob, they went with physical types.

"In truth we're both Felix," says Sajak. "But Joe seemed so naturally physically to play Oscar."

"And even more so that we're staying in the house that the producers are providing for us," says Moore.

"The house is cleaner now," says Sajak.

Vietnam Friendship

Sajak and Moore met when both men were in Vietnam in the late '60s as part of the American Forces Radio Network.

"We were literally thrown together in a room in a hotel in Saigon that the army was operating with members of not only our [radio] network but other command support groups, says Moore. "We ended up as roommates.

"I was doing sports and news announcements and Pat was the morning guy who followed Adrian Cronauer. [Robin Williams played Cronauer in the 1987 movie, "Good Morning, Vietnam."]

We were the odd couple in Vietnam."

Sajak says, "It's a strange thing to be doing what we were doing with a war going but there was an undercurrent that this was a really dangerous place to be."

The experience in Vietnam gave him perspective. "I don't get nervous about things. What's the worst thing that can happen? You could write something bad. Fine, but you're not going to shoot at me."

Sharing a love of drinking, carousing and sports, the men bonded in the war zone. After they were discharged they lost track of each other until Sajak saw Moore, who was living and working in Hawaii, in an episode of the original"Hawaii Five-O"series. They reconnected and remained close friends since.

"We have a similar outlook on life, I think," says Moore. "We certainly don't take ourselves seriously. We take what we do seriously and have a lot of fun with it."

Wheel's Future

Asked about "Wheel of Fortune" and his role in it — he joined the then-only daytime series in 1981 — Sajak is prepared with an answer.

"I will leave before the show does and I say that only because of Father Time. The show is incredible. Listen, we're playing hangman and spinning a giant multi-colored wheel, that's what what we're doing. And it's been on for over 30 years."

"You're being very modest," says Moore, "because each year you seem to bring some change to it. The game has evolved. And you have really made a big impact."

"I'd like to think so," says Sajak, tongue firmly in cheek.

"But I can give you 10 reasons why the show really shouldn't work but it has. It's become part of the popular culture. It may never go away — and that's not hyperbole. If we lost half our audience tomorrow, we would still be a very successful. So the show is going to go on forever, especially in these days when television is so splintered. There are very few mass audience shows. We're in 20 million homes each night."

So if the show isn't going anywhere, is he?

"I joke but it's true. I have two criteria. I would like to leave while the show is still this popular and I'd like to leave before people start to say, 'What the hell happened to him?' Look, I'm much closer to the end than I am to the beginning. But at some point a deal will be up and I'll say that's enough."

But for now he's still spinning the wheel, with chunks of time off, most in May and June when there's a long break in the taping of the shows.

"Doing something like 'The Odd Couple' is something I really enjoy doing. I also understand that my name on a project doesn't hurt the box office. But I'm a pretty honest critic of myself. If I think if I'm credible at what I do and I really like doing it I'll do as much as I can. But I really can't do it very often. But if I can do one of these projects every year or two before I begin to drool, I'll be fine with that."

THE ODD COUPLE plays June 21 to July 7 at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre on the UConn campus, 802 Bolton Road, Storrs. Preview performance is Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Opening night is Friday, June 22 at 8 p.m. Performances continue June 23 at 2 and 8 p.m.; and June 24 at 2 p.m.; June 26-28t 7:30 p.m.; June 29 p.m.; June 30 at 2 and 8,July 1 at 2 p.m.,July 3 and July 5 at 7:30 p.m.; July 6 at 8 p.m. and July 7 at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $32 to $45. Information: 860-486-1629 and http://www.crtuconn.edu. Tickets: 860-486-2113.

Read Frank's blog on theater, the arts and entertainment at http://www.courant.com/curtain. Catch him talking to Rachel about theater every Friday during the 9 o'clock hour on FOX/CT's Morning show. And be the first to know by following me on http://www.Twitter.com/ShowRiz.