“The Odd Couple” (female version) is the second in a trilogy of plays presented by Oil Lamp Theater in 2018 that represent stories about women.
Unger and Madison are at it again! Florence Unger and Olive Madison, that is, in Neil Simon’s hilarious contemporary comic classic: the female version of The Odd Couple. Instead of the poker party that begins the original version, Ms. Madison has invited the girls over for an evening of Trivial Pursuit. The Pidgeon sisters have been replaced by the two Constanzuela brothers. But the hilarity remains the same.
The performance runs 2 hours and 20 minutes including a ten-minute intermission.
The Odd Couple (Female Version) is Neil Simon’s adaptation of his timeless hit that originally premiered on Broadway in 1965 and ran for over 960 performances. In this version, Simon re-imagines Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, his famous polar opposites, as independent women living in New York City during the go-go 1980s. Here, Olive Madison is the carefree, sloppy one and Florence Unger is the finicky, obsessive-compulsive neatnik.
The show opens in the unkempt New York apartment of Olive Madison (Sydney Genco), a successful television producer. Olive is hosting her weekly game of Trivial Pursuit that she plays with four close friends, including Mickey (Katie Hope Noble), a gruff yet likeable New York cop. Also present is Renee (Deveon Bromby), a single woman who isn’t shy about sharing her opinions – or reminding you that she’s currently dating a doctor. Another member of the group is Vera (Alexandra Alontaga), a smart but somewhat spacey character who seems almost unconscious of her vibrant sense of humor. Rounding out the group is Sylvie (Kat Moraros), a married woman who loves to crack jokes, especially about her husband. Unfortunately, her good humor can sometimes curdle into irritability… but she does her best.
Into this comfortable mix walks Florence Unger (C. Jaye Miller), a neurotic and highly-strung bundle of nervous energy who announces that she’s just separated from her husband. Florence, of course, is a fussy and somewhat overanxious fussbudget who can’t stand untidiness or clutter. Olive knows this — but Florence is also Olive’s good friend, and Olive is worried about her. Perhaps, thinks Olive, Florence’s separation from her husband might lead to desperate measures… even suicide! Olive decides to take care of Florence by inviting her to move in as her apartment mate. She reasons that this will not only ensure that she has a place to stay, but also keep her safe under the watchful eye of her friends.
Of course, this not a match made in heaven and the sparks of incompatibility soon fly. Florence makes it her business to put Olive’s messy house in order, much to Olive’s chagrin. And what’s Olive to do with a roommate who is so obsessive and germ-phobic that she even sanitizes the Trivial Pursuit cards?
Things get even more complicated when Olive decides to invite two male neighbors (standing in for the Pigeon sisters from the original) to their apartment for a romantic dinner. These are the Constanzuela brothers, Manolo (Armando Reyes) and Jesus (Steven Hermez). Originally from Spain, they now work in New York for Iberia Airlines. The brothers live together in the apartment upstairs from Olive. She met them one day in the elevator. “They’re a million laughs” says Olive, reassuringly.
When these two European gentlemen arrive they bring flowers, candy and a suave old-world charm that immediately delights their hosts. These debonair lotharios are also clearly enchanted by their American hostesses, and do their best to woo them in what they think is the “proper” American way. Unfortunately, their limited skills in English lead to several misunderstandings, malapropisms and innuendos that collide with their efforts to navigate the tricky terrain of modern American courtship.
The collision of cultures, language, and expectations all make the pursuit of romance more awkward than anyone could have imagined. Still, the two Spanish gentlemen and these liberated ladies from New York make the best of it… and the results are predictably heartwarming and hilarious.
Director Keith Gerth emphasizes that The Odd Couple (Female Version) is a comedic vision with a difference. “The script for this updated and revamped version is not just the ‘male’ version of the play with women assigned to the lead roles,” he notes. “This is a completely reworked show that puts a group of modern professional women into Simon’s familiar story of mismatched roommates and examines how they navigate their differences.
Gerth goes on to explain that audiences looking for the crackling wit they expect from Neil Simon will certainly find it here, “…but there’s also something more. This updated version takes on other questions such as, What does it really mean to be an independent woman in today’s world? and How does asserting your personal independence impact your friendships? Your romantic relationships? and even How does it affect the way you interact with the world around you?’
“We’ve been exploring these issues as we’ve prepared this production,” notes Gerth, “and it’s been a fascinating process of discovery, examining the lives of women trying to be themselves — individuals who are not defined by men. This show is set in the mid-1980s, which was a fascinating time in our history. These women are part of the first generation influenced by modern feminism. They are exploring their independence not very long after the Mad Men alpha-male era of the ‘50s and ‘60s. But we’ve learned that the things they’re dealing with are still a challenge today. These issues are still with us, even in 2018.”
Commenting on the how this play fits into the larger Oil Lamp 2018 schedule, Director Gerth explained that The Odd Couple (Female Version) is the second in a trilogy of shows presented during the 2018 Oil Lamp Theater season that represent stories about women.
“The first, Love, Loss and What I Wore“, focused on the intimate side of personal growth, looking at how women define and shape their sense of self in intimate ways.
This show takes this exploration to the next level as we consider how that sense of self affects relationships, both with men and with other women – especially in a world and at a time when the ability to make strong, independent choices really seems possible.
The third show in this trilogy, The God Committee, will move this conversation into the workplace – in this case, the high-pressure world of medicine, specifically organ transplantation and cardiac surgery. This is a place where women in positions of power, and with important decision-making responsibility, have been rare until quite recently.
Each of these shows offers us fertile ground for exploring the challenges facing women, and for considering what it means to be a woman in society today. There’s a lot to think about… but also a lot of fun to be had along the way!”
Directed by Executive Director Keith Gerth
Bronte DeShong Stage Manager
C. Jaye Miller
Katie Hope Noble