What is not fun about a good ol’ fashioned gender swap? Well, that is exactly what you will be in for at the Little Theatre of Alexandria this month with their production of The Odd Couple (Female Version). The Odd Couple’s Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar are two of the most iconic male characters of the modern era of entertainment. From the stage to TV and the silver screen, who is not familiar with this comedic duo? Well, Neil Simon decided that the men shouldn’t have all the fun and turned his classic story into a story of the famed characters female counterparts, Olive and Florence. There are some noticeable plot points that don’t flow quite as well as in the original, but that is easily forgotten in this production as Director Joanna Henry leads her talented cast to a successful and very fun night at the theater.
When arriving we are treated with simple and eye-catching set, designed by MYKE. Designer MYKE used bright colors and a very feminine design to set the stage for Olive Madison’s apartment where all of the action takes place in the show. With set decorators Jean Koppen and Daniel Nichols, MYKE adds touches of feminine flair with antique-looking furnishings and floral designs. Touches of female clothes are displayed about, signifying the oh-so familiar mess of the Madison character. The play is set in 1985, but the décor has just the right touch of ‘80s flair, which can easily be over the top.
Costume Designer Ceci Albert and hair and make-up stylist Robin Havens Parker follows suit with the ’80’s garb she had for our players, the most over-the-top is fitting with the most over the top female character, Sylvie played by Kat Sanchez, with her polka dot blouse and teased hair style.
The story opens with the friends of Olive Madison (Gayle Nichols-Grimes); Sylvie (Kat Sanchez), Mickey (Michelle Fletcher), Renee (Elizabeth Replogle) and Vera (Natalie Fox) all playing a game of trivial pursuit. I had trouble seeing them connect as you would expect longtime friends too, but this improved throughout the show. By the end their alliances to each other were clear and their caring for their friends Olive and Flo unquestioned. They also had some of the most fun one-liners of the evening, I especially enjoyed Kat Sanchez, and she had the audience roaring when she exclaimed she married a penguin – if you don’t know the joke -go see it!
The ladies are soon joined by their host Olive Madison (Gayle Nichols-Grimes). Nichols-Grimes is a seasoned local actor and her talent shows in this role. She plays Olive as a bit of a grouch, but is endearing as she reaches out to her friend Florence Ungar (Jennifer Lyons Pagnard). The pair are oddly matched for sure. Pagnard’s Florence is delightfully neurotic. One of her laugh out loud moments had to be when she would not say the name of her date, Jesus, out loud. Overall, the pair of Nichols Grimes and Pagnard are amusing to watch, with the most fun had to be when the exasperated Olive chased the every injured Florence around the living room.
The pinnacle of the story is reached just before and leading into the much awaited date with the Constasuela brothers, Manolo (Philip Krzywicki) and Jesus (Brendan Quinn). The two are likable and fun, and awkward, to say the least. The date scene was fun to watch and the Spanish accents were good, but the energy did seem to lull at that point instead of picking up as you would expect leading into the final climax.
The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s The Odd Couple (Female Version) is a well-directed production with a talented group of actors, and and very creative designers. The story is the same, but the female twist is definitely a fun one! I highly recommend that you see it. Lots of laughs await you!
Running Time: Two 2 and a half hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
The Odd Couple (Female Version) plays through May 16, 2015 at The Little Theatre of Alexandria – 600 Wolfe Street, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 683-0496 or purchase them online.