Review: THE ODD COUPLE (FEMALE VERSION) at Monticello Opera House

By: Jun. 23, 2020
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Review: THE ODD COUPLE (FEMALE VERSION) at Monticello Opera House

The Odd Couple (Female Version) Brings Laughter to the Monticello Opera House

A pandemic may be an odd time to debut a play, but that's what The Perkins Players did. Their first play -- a comedy centered around the tensions that arise when two very different people live in close proximity to each other -- was performed in front of audience members who had very likely spent a significant part of the past few months being forced to live in close quarters with other humans (except for anyone who lives by themselves). Would that make audience members relate or yearn for an escape about anything except being trapped together in one apartment?

"The Odd Couple (Female Version)" by Neil Simon gives its audience moments of levity and an opportunity to think about how people get along with each other (or don't). The original "Odd Couple" premiered on Broadway in 1965. The female version had its debut in 1985.

Olive Madison's (Liane Giroux) Manhattan apartment, with its harvest gold walls, overflowing laundry basket and general air of disarray, is the setting for a lively game of Trivial Pursuit as the show begins. Sylvia (Sandra Wilson), Renee (Jessica Katz), Mickey (Freddie Schrader) and Vera (Aiko Austin) set the scene with banter and competition. Early on, Vera shows a bright and bubbly (and slightly ditzy) side and Olive contributes her sports knowledge. Her grasp of sports is much better than her grasp of cooking, as the desiccated snacks she serves demonstrate.

Florence Unger's (Shannon Delaney-James) arrival changes the entire feel of the group's interactions. Florence is having husband issues, and it's clear she's perhaps too vulnerable to be left alone. That's how fastidious Florence, with her Southern lilt, ends up rooming with messy Olive, who has more of a northeastern flair.

Mickey calls things like they are, deadpanning to Florence about her marriage: "14 years don't mean you're happy; they mean you're long."

When the play resumes after intermission, the set is changed to reflect Florence's touch, which is EVERYWHERE. The walls are still harvest gold, but everything is in its place and coordinated. The Trivial Pursuit bunch is going to have something to look forward to menu-wise.

However, woe to the person who turns off the "puritron," an air-cleaning machine. Florence is on the scene and things are going to be in order, including the Trivial Pursuit cards, which she has washed.

Florence hasn't found a surface that doesn't need to be cleaned. Olive: "Don't wipe down the phone some of my favorite fingerprints are there!"

Olive doesn't pretend to be a relationship expert, but she also has a read on Florence. During a particularly tough conflict, she shares, "Fighting I win, Pouting you win. And she calls Olive on her next move (sulking), opining that sulking is the same thing as pouting."

Despite the increasing tension as the utter differences between the two grow, Olive convinces Florence to enjoy a date night with the two Spanish brothers Manola Costazuela (David Baucum) and Jesus Costazuela (Tim Nettles) who live in the building. Florence declines a restaurant outing, directing her efforts toward the perfect capon.

Things start going downhill when Olive gets home later than Florence expects, after she has taken on efforts such as "stamping little Spaniards on the butter patties." Manny and Jesus are a delight, between the physical comedy of refusing to sit until the women sit and their language foibles (a "breadwinner" is mistakenly called a "cake stealer"). Florence's rigid body language betrays her sense of dismay about the evening ... until she has the men alone and starts sharing her issues.

Once the evening's emotional tone is deteriorating, Olive is bereft that her one night of fun is ruined.

This carries over to the next scene, which is played with no words but plenty of pent up anger. As Florence continues to vacuum, Olive displays her extreme frustration.

The Trivial Pursuit crowd is on its way, but the bigger game unfolds as Olive's and Florence's relationship comes to a head. Olive: "I can't ever have dirty dreams -- you come in and clean 'em up!"

As the play winds down, a few dominos fall into place that make a difference for Olive, and Flo has an offer from the brothers to room with them for a bit. The show closes based on a Trivial Pursuit question.

It's from the "Entertainment" category. Fitting for a show that brought entertainment back to the Monticello Opera House after pandemic-related show postponements.

There are elements of Simon's writing that are not aligned with 2020 sensibilities, especially as they relate to how suicide is treated. This is something to keep in mind if you are an audience member for whom mental health issues create a sensitivity.

The cast rehearsed this show by phone at first, then by Zoom, then with masks on, according to the director. The cast deserves additional recognition for persevering despite a pandemic.

"The Odd Couple (Female Version)" is showing June 26 and 27 at 8 p.m. and June 28 at 2 p.m. It is directed by Barbie Nettles. Visit this site for details.


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