Let me preface this particular review by stating that the whole idea of remaking “The Odd Couple”, Neil Simon’s classic play about two men , of different backgrounds, moving in together, into a Female production , has never appealed to me. I have always felt that this story line would not be plausible for women as it is the story of two men, one a slob ( Oscar) and the other a neatnik who loves to cook ( Felix) being forced to live with each other and share an apartment in New York. To convert these men to females is a difficult task, and one that I am sure Simon did not relish ( but money talks).
That being said, Producer/Director Robert Bills, decided that for his first production in Chicago, this was the play he wanted to do. I met Mr. Bills prior ro opening and he is a nice, personable gentlemen who loves theater. He, for some reason, loves this play and so he selected it for his production. I will say that he has some dynamite performers playing the roles, but it is the roles that are wrong as this is NOT a play about women, no matter how many changes are made.
The poker games are now trivial pursuit ( okay, that can be cute) but the “guys” sitting around complaining and smoking cigars are truly missed. Some of the dialogue is confusing and despite solid acting by the two leads, Flo ( the Felix character played to perfection by Elaine Carlson) and Olive ( the Oscar character, deftly played by Elizabeth A. Styles) the story does not make as much sense as the “male version”. Questions from the get-go- Why does Olive send her ex money? What does she do for a living? If Flo is a “housewife/mother, why does she leavethe home? Back in those days ( this takes place in the 80’s, after all) the man would leave, or be tossed out, not the woman.
These are just a few questions that I have always felt were not answered when the Female version of this show was first put on stage with Barbar Eden using it as her “come-back” vehicle. I must say that the conversion of the upstairs sisters to Latino brothers ( two marvelous actors- Dagoberto Zolio Soto as Manola and Cesar Jaime as Jesus truly made this production something worth seeing. These are local actors who I have not seen before and hope to see again. They handles comedy with great timing and made the “date scene” a wonderful experience from a somewhat dismal script.
Overall, I would have to say that of the several productions of this female version, this one stood out and had some merit. The cast is stronger than others: Kristen Williams,Debra Rodkin,Darcie Bender Hubber and the adorable Meghan Powe as Vera ( the dumb blonde). The set by Daniel Haymes fits the stage area at The Greenhouse ( main stage) and gives us the feeling of an apartment, but we get confused as to where the different rooms are. Delena Bradley’s costumes are pretty much the 80’s and cat Wilson’s lighting works. Sorry to say, the props person , who I am sure did a great deal of work is not mentioned. Of course, they use the theme from “The Odd Couple” along with other music of the period. How could they not?
“The Odd Couple” The Female Version) will continue at The Greenhouse Theater Center located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue through November 10th with performances as follows:
Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Running time is close to 2 1/2 hours including a 15 minute intermission.
Tickets ( general admission seating)are $28 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-404-7336, or online at www.greenhousetheater.tix.com
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Odd Couple (Female Version)”