The Odd Couple (Female Version)
By Neil Simon
Directed by Keith Smith
Starring Marty Stonerock and Peg O’Keefe
The Garden Theater
Winter Garden, FL
This production is presented in ensemble with the male version directed by Katrina Ploof and starring Steven Lima and Mark Ferrera. These comments only reflect the female version.
While the men of the original “Odd Couple” drank bourbon and smoked cheap cigars, the women in this version play Trivial Pursuit and drink wine spritzers. Simon’s original story went on stage in 1965 but today the world demands an equivalent all-female version of this mismatched friendship. Mr. Simon has obliged. Olive Madison (Stonerock) has an ill-defined job involving sports. Her long term and obsessive-compulsive friend Florence Ungar (O’Keefe) is unhappily married to a short Jewish man with a cowboy boot fetish. It took twenty years for Florence’s world to fall apart, but now she’s homeless and needs a crash pad. That falls on Olive’s weekly Trivial Pursuit night where her friend notices Florence’s glaring absence. Soon suicidal Florence appears, and when it’s clear she’s not going to jump out the 11th floor window the struggle between Olive’s sloppy sexuality and Florence’s frustrated perfect home making bubbles up until the pair are about to kitty bitch slap each other to death. When Olive attempts to seduce some Spanish neighbors, the jokes pile up faster as Florence does her level best to destroy the potential hook up.
The light and airy set invites us to one of those New York City apartments no real person could ever afford. Act one is a bit forced; the raunchy male camaraderie of the original whiskey soaked poker game isn’t nearly effective and a few jokes fall flat as the large cast diffuses the comedic tension. But once Olive and Florence are alone in Act 2 the apartment neatens up to a painful cleanliness while the love / hate machine between these women explodes. The interdiction of Manolo (Thomas Muniz) and Jesus (Brandon Lopez) piles on the gags, and even their misplaced foreigner shtick delivers laugh after laugh. The supporting cast support well enough; Vera Varlamolv as Sylvie give us a lovable sexiness, Laura Cooper as the nice cop Mickey adds a calming lid to Florence’s sinus condition, and Jade Jones as Renee offers a running commentary on the action. I went in expecting little, but was rewarded with a strong ending and side splitting comedy from a hard-fought supporting cast. Yes, you need to help your friends in a pinch, but that doesn’t mean you need to move in with them for more than a sitcom’s run of months.
For more information on The Garden Theatre, please visit www.gardentheatre.org