by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
OPCT opened its last show of 2010 with Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (female version). It will run through November 20th at the theatre on Moody Avenue in Orange Park. Call 276-2599 or visit www.OPCT.org for reservations.
Simon’s original The Odd Couple (with all the guys), opened in 1965, and won four Tony Awards. It went on to become a movie and a TV series, and remains a staple of community and dinner theatres all over the USA.
If you haven’t ever seen the play or if you need a little refreshing on the story line, here’s a short recap. Two very best friends, who are separated from their spouses, decide to share living quarters, an apartment in New York. Bad move!! Olive is sloppy, her apartment is very, very cluttered, and she likes it that way. Florence, the new roommate, is fussy, and obsessed with imposing cleanliness and order throughout. Harmony evaporates as they begin bristling at each other like two annoyed porcupines confined in a small space.
The play opens on an evening when Olive (Rhodie Jackson) is hosting the regular weekly Trivial Pursuit party, with the usual wisecracking friends. They include, Mickey, the affable New York cop (Toni Stephens), the dizzy and clueless Vera (Sally DeBorde), Sylvie (Vicki Lowe) the gal who likes to talk about sex and Renee (Beth Hudson) who likes to date doctors. The first half hour of the play finds them anxiously waiting for Florence (Ellen Hare) to arrive. Flo and her husband have broken up; she may be planning suicide. This may sound serious, but if you know Neil Simon’s style, everything is done for laughs and there are boatloads in this play, still very funny after more than forty years.
In Act II, Olive invites the two Spanish brothers who live upstairs for dinner, against the objections of the fragile Florence, who is having difficulty adjusting to the reality of her separated status. In one of the funniest scenes of the show, the Costazuela brothers Manolo (Richard Shefffler) and Jesus (Leonard Alterman, who is reprising a role he did seventeen years ago at what was Case Theatre in Mandarin) arrive. Both are funny, funny guys, who, with a shaky command of the English language, present candy and flowers. Before dinner is served, Florence enlightens the men about her marriage of fourteen years falling apart and how she misses her children and soon all three are in tears.
After three weeks, Olive has had it and kicks out Florence but in the end, a surprising one at that, a happy ending ensues.
Director Barbara Wells has cast the show well and the personalities of all the performers have been well developed.
Ellen Hare as Flo and Rhodie Jackson as Olive are perfectly matched opposites and have the lion’s share of the lines. They are razor sharp in their dialogue, a real feat because Neil Simon’s style is based on fast and furious one line jokes and timing is critical. Ms. Hare does a marvelous bit of displaying a range of emotions, and was especially funny when she was demonstrating all her physical ailments. Ms. Jackson communicated as much with facial expressions as she did with words about her frustrations with Florence.
The set designed by Barbara Wells and her husband David (who also designed the lights), is a typical New York City space, with yellow walls, a beige rug and comfortable furniture. And, of course, clutter – clutter everywhere, papers, magazines, clothes, empty six packs . . . all of course, just waiting to be straightened up by Flo.
Costumes by Blynn Stevens and the cast are colorful and fun. Olive’s initial costume leaves little doubt that she’s not particularly interested in clothes, at least not in casual situations, as she appears with a baseball cap, baseball top, faded jeans and sneakers; she appears more fashionably dressed at other times. Her friends wear clothes that are both conventional and pretty. And those Spanish guys are snazzy dressers.
The female version of The Odd Couple debuted in the1980’s with Simon reworking his original. It debuted on Broadway starring Sally Struthers and Rita Moreno, and has been done all over the world. The humor in this play is relevant today and only a couple of references actually date this show; they include “Dynasty” (TV show ended in 1989) and politician Adlai Stevenson (died in 1965).
Director Wells has paced this show well, with a strong emphasis on the visual humor as well as the spoken humor.
Don’t miss this truly funny show that has become a classic. It is recommended for mature audiences. Orange Park now reserves all seats, so if you call early you can possibly choose where you want to sit in this intimate theatre.
THE ODD COUPLE (FEMALE VERISON) review
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM