BY KIT HAIST – STAFF WRITER
Even if you aren’t familiar with Neil Simon’s oeuvre, you’ve still probably heard the phrase “Odd Couple.” It’s a fairly simple concept. “It’s two people living together who are complete opposites,” said Jonathan Hunt ’18, director of The Odd Couple: Female Version.
Simon’s original play about “complete opposites” follows Felix Unger, the fussy hypochondriac, moving in with Oscar Madison, the slob, after being kicked out by his wife. The Odd Couple: Female Version establishes a similar context to the original. Florence Unger is going through a divorce, and Olive Madison takes her into her incredibly messy apartment. “There’s wadded up paper all over the floor, and there are clothes that haven’t been folded but are clean, just kind of hanging on a railing,” Hunt said.
Florence, like Felix, has stumbled into a foreign environment. “She’s very neat, very very neat,” said Diana Smith ’20, of her character, Florence. “She likes everything to have a place and everything to be in its place.”
“It’s definitely exaggerated. You wouldn’t see people react in such crazy ways,” said Zoe Zink ’19, who plays Olive and Florence’s friend Vera, about the comedy that ensues when two polar opposites negotiate living with one another. “We are taking it as far as we can and maybe crossing the line a little bit further,” Zink explained of the cast’s approach to humor.
Despite the ostensible similarities in plot, character, and humor, Hunt cautions against assuming The Odd Couple: Female Version is just “the same story, but we just put women in it.” He went on to say, though the concept may be the same, the play is “writing honest, realistic women and then putting the situation into their world.”
Smith was originally attracted to the production for being a strong female-driven comedy. She said, “I don’t think there’s been a show like this at Centre in a while, and I’m really excited to be a part of bringing it here.”
The play does bring a shift in tone to the new theatre season. Hecuba, a Greek Tragedy exploring displacement from one’s home, Rabbit Hole, a play examining familial loss, and Love 95 Times, a play discussing sexual assault on college campus, comprised DramaCentre’s season last year. Hunt acknowledged the necessity of these plays and of discussing these topics, but stated how he wanted to remind people, “every once in a while, you just have to laugh. You have to remember there’s hope, and there’s friendship, and there’s love.”
For all of Florence’s and Olive’s antics, The Odd Couple: Female Version ultimately seems to be a play about friendship, hope, and self-acceptance, a sentiment DramaCentre hopes the audience takes away from the production, as they have themselves.
Zink said she learned to have more confidence in her ideas knowing “people will support you and critique you but in a positive way.” She hopes the audience sees this as a show about friendship and “the importance of being happy with oneself.”
Hunt relayed how balancing directing with being a student was difficult, but he knew he had support from people “creating their own art, whether it’s the actors, or the designers, or even just a first-year technician who has a question that just blows the whole roof off of something.”
He hopes the audience leaves thinking, “‘Maybe we’re ok, being who we are despite what other people tell us. Maybe it’s better for us to feel liked instead of feeling needed.’”
“It makes me really grateful for my friends and the affect that friendship has on our lives,” expressed Smith. She hopes to bring the joy of comedy to the audience. “People need to laugh and if we can give people a reason to laugh that’s even better.”
The Odd Couple: Female Version will certainly bring the comedy of the original play and the subsequent movie and three television sitcoms it spawned.
“It’s still The Odd Couple,” Hunt said. “But it’s going to be a little different than a bunch of men playing poker.”
The Odd Couple: Female Version runs from Oct. 4 to 7. Showtime is 8:00 p.m. The Showtime for the Oct. 7 performance is 5:00 p.m.