The Male and Female ‘The Odd Couple” at Sterling Playmakers by Queen ‘Lottie’ Yard

Sterling Playmakers delivers a one-two punch with Lora Buckman’s production of both the male and female versions of The Odd Couple. Written by Neil Simon, the Tony Award-winning play, The Odd Couple, premiered on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre on March 10, 1965. In 1985, Neil Simon revised The Odd Couple for a female cast. It was titled The Female Odd Couple and was based on the same story line and same lead characters, now called Florence Unger and Olive Madison.

The plot concerns two mismatched roommates: a neurotic, neat freak who is thrown out by his/her spouse, and moves in with his/her friend a messy amiable lout. The concept is familiarly nostalgic. The roommate from hell experience is familiar and uncomfortably relatable. Comedic moments stem from the stereotypical masculine/feminine roles that are assigned to two characters of the same sex.
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The Odd Couple (Male Version)

The opening scene of quartet of guys playing poker in Oscar’s garbage strewn New York City apartment, is one of the funniest card sessions I have ever seen. Bringing the dirt and the comedic spark, Jay Tilley (Oscar) is playfully animated and energetic. Whether it’s serving his guest exploding warm beer or “off” sandwiches, frantically chasing Felix through the apartment or bellowing like Ralph Kramden, he amps up the physical to artistically deliver every punch line. Tom Cohen’s portrayal of the obsessive compulsive Felix counterbalances Oscar’s “whatever” attitude. He is a reserved, slightly effeminate, overly emotional and text book hypochondriac. His nasal full-bodied goose call attempts to clear his sinus are classic. The quartet of poker players (Patrick Schrader, Jim Johnson, Kevin J. Kellenberger, Tim Voit) is very strong as well, making the most of their scenes with shared impeccable comic timing. Erika Jarecki and Jackie Davis, as Cecily and Gwendolyn, stand out as the daft and flirty swinging British Pigeon sisters.

Oscar (Jay Tilley) tries to stop the distraught Felix (Tom Cohen) from smashing his wine bottle before he gets to drink it!! Photo by Brian Garrison.

Brian Garrison and Mary Speed’s direction keeps the production racing along at the proper pace throughout, speeding up and slowing down at just the right moments. Garrison and Speed innovatively sustain the comedic pace by using a mixture of classic and new 60’s era commercials displayed on a large screen – thus invoke a live action sitcom atmosphere. Terry Dimurro’s homey yet tired New York apartment set is a plethora of pizza boxes, open potato chip bags, clothes and garbage that still retain some of the decorative touches of Oscar’s former wife. Beth Howard’s costumes and Rick Dulik’s choice of music and sets the tone and time frame.

Running Time: Approximately Two hours and 10 minutes, including one 10 minute intermission.
The Odd Couple -Male Version plays on Saturday, April 21, 2012 and Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 3:00 PM at Sterling Middle School –201 West Holly Avenue, in Sterling, VA. For tickets, click here and here.

Logo: The Main Street Theatre Company.
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The Female Odd Couple 

Directors Bob Rosenberg and Meredith Solano, uses a New York apartment similar to the male version, but this time not as messy as the guys in the opening scene. The poker playing buddies are replaced by a fast-talking lady New Yorkers expertly dressed by Beth Howard in 80’s fashions.

In the female version, Oscar is now Olive (Vicki Sanders-Johnson) and Felix is now Flo (Beverly Pruzina). Johnson’s Olive is nothing short of a messy caring sports writer who affects everyone around her. Pruzina’s Florence is exactly the opposite, a tidy freak whose counselor claims that she is a lunatic. Pruzina delights the audience as she transforms from a broken women bordering on a nervous breakdown, to a 1950’s style house wife whose self worth is based on her homemaker abilities to a somewhat liberated women.

Flo's friends try to stop Flo from jumping: (left to right) Rene (Meg Roosma), Olive (Vicki Sanders), Mickey (Janet Devine Smith), Vera (Sonya Kalian), Flo (Beverly Pruzina) and Sylvie (Annie Scanlon). Photo by Paul Gernhardt.

Backing them up are equally capable performers: Annie V. Scanlon, Janet Devine Smith, Meg Roosma, Sonya Kalian. Roosma’s complaining Renee and Scanlon’s Sylvie are fun foils to Kalian’s Vera and Smith’s Mickey. Counterbalancing the feminine action are the goofy, affable, emotional Spanish ex-pats played by Adrian Vigil and Alex Bhargava who live upstairs. Vigil and Bhargava portrayal of the ex-pats inability to understand the finer points of the English language and their Continental charm revitalizes the comedic action.

Neil Simon’s female version drags in comparison to the male version. It focuses too much on the Trivial Pursuit game popular in the 80s and not enough on the comedic opposites of Olive and Flo. In the female version, both characters care very much for their former spouses and verbally bemoan their relationship woes to the poker quartet and to the brothers – thus diminishing the comedic dichotomy. Di Murro’s costume design compensates by visually depicting opposites – by dressing Flo in period appropriate feminine dresses and Olive in men’s wear.

Lora Buckman’s production of both the male and female versions of The Odd Couple is filled with one-liners, slapstick comedy and likeable characters. Both performances are funny and are worth seeing. However, the comedic timing of the actors makes the male production more memorable.

Running time: Approximately Two hours and 5 minutes including one 10 minute intermission.

The Odd Couple -Female Version plays on Friday, April 20, 2012 and Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 8:00 PM at Sterling Middle School -201 West Holly Avenue, in Sterling, VA. For tickets, click here and here

Logo: Marathon Community Theatre.

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Here are the casts of the two The Odd Couple(s).