McLean High School
When six women get together for Friday night games of Trivial Pursuit, everything is out on the table: a recent divorce, post-separation loneliness, promiscuous Florida motel rooms, and even a new pregnancy! However, when the group's resident slob and neat freak start living together, the only things on the table are plastic coasters and bitter spirits. Magnificently student-directed, H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program's production of the female version of "The Odd Couple" proved that opposites don't always attract.
Written by Neil Simon in 1965, "The Odd Couple" has since risen onto the Broadway stage, into cinemas, and onto television. The relatable roommate friction appeals to audiences, reminding them of the times when they clashed with a college room or suitemate. In 1985, following the success of the TV show, Neil Simon revised "The Odd Couple" for a female cast. The play focuses around what happens when easygoing slob Olive Madison, struggling with post-separation loneliness, and the hypochondriac neat-freak Florence Ungar, wrestling with her recent divorce, try to live together in a small New York City apartment.
Prattling off sports facts while ‘man spreading' on her couch, Katie Rau was laudable as Olive. Rau's dynamic emotional arc flowed seamlessly between her happiness playing trivia, anger at her roommate's neuroticism, and loneliness without her ex-husband. Melodramatically pulling her friend's hand towards her chest and heaving a plate of spaghetti -no, linguini - at the wall, Rau's expressive choices created an authentic and exciting character. Bustling around the apartment and cleaning up Olive's messes, Jamie Kang played the group's neat freak, Florence. Kang's straight delivery of her lines led to ironic hilarity and her tiny compulsive mannerisms, like pushing in chairs and straightening books, were consistent with her character. Together, the duo used each other's energy magnificently to escalate high-tension moments, shattering glasses and yelling simultaneously, generating the sitcom-like feel of the piece.
Cluttered around the table on game night, each of the duo's friends created a unique personality that was exciting to watch. Amy Beesley-Gilman, as Sylvie, was true to herself and presented a consistently genuine performance. Vivienne Blouin's aloofness as Vera, Jasmina Tang's blunt commentary as Mickey, and Caroline Alpi's dramatics as Renee combined to create an amusing back and forth. Altogether, the six ladies emanated genuine friendship, whether they were laughing together about high school or jumping up to prevent a potential suicide. Kissing each lady's hand and full of linguistic humor, Cole Smyth and Lex Garcia were ‘muy bien' as Manolo and Jesus. Smyth and Garcia's commitment to their brotherly antics along with their abundance of charm and their Spanish accents created two lovable characters that commanded the stage.
Paying as much attention to detail as Florence would, Will Senkus did an exceptional job directing the show. His complex blocking along with the theatrical character choices accentuated the sitcom feel of the play and added new depth to the production. Colorful costumes paired with showy hairstyles embodied the boisterous essence of the New York ‘80s. The grand set and lighting created Olive's apartment, while the props team excelled with their edible foods, retro soda cans, stacks of takeout containers, plastic coasters, and other details that underscored each character's flaws.
With giddy friends, spirited Spaniards, and a box of Trivial Pursuit cards, entertainment is inevitable. H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program's performance of the female version of "The Odd Couple" attests that you don't always find love in romance, but can always find love in your friends.
Oakton High School
It's a well-known fact that opposites attract - but two roommates are about to prove an exception to the rule. H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program's "The Odd Couple - Female Version" brings the rollicking comedy to life, packed with clashing friendships, organized chaos, and downright delightful humor.
Neil Simon originally penned "The Odd Couple" in 1965; it debuted on Broadway the same year and became a classic, leading to an Academy-Award nominated film in 1968 and a 1970 sitcom. In 1985, Simon modified the play for a female cast: "The Female Odd Couple," which opened on Broadway in 1985, starring Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers.
The tale of polar-opposite roommates is set in a hot New York summer in the 1980s, when recently divorced friends Olive Madison and Florence Ungar decide to move in together. In between Trivial Pursuit nights and awkward dinner party dates, Olive and Florence's contending cleanliness customs prompt hilarity at every turn.
With frizzy hair and glasses sliding down her nose, Katie Rau is dynamic as disorderly Olive. With mellow swagger and lightning-fast quips, Rau is completely comfortable in her messy character, owning her untidy traits - from flinging off her shoes the minute she steps through her door to pitching a plateful of pasta at the wall - with smug satisfaction.
Jamie Kang's Florence, who hates a mess, is a whirlwind of hysteria and practicality. As she embodies Florence's myriad of ailments - from bursitis to neck spasms - and neat-freak tics, Kang miraculously never loses her straight-laced composure.
Together, the eponymous odd couple are ironically in sync while playing their differences. The culmination of anger at one another's habits forms slowly, but the caring chemistry that Rau and Kang share keeps their argumentative scenes grounded.
The clique of girlfriends who have weekly games of Trivial Pursuit at Olive's house elevate each of their scenes with splendidly spirited friendship. Through opinionated chats about marriage and feminism, bickering between ditzy Vera (Vivienne Blouin) and cynical Sylvie (Amy Beesley-Gilman), and bouts of crooning pop hits, the realistic charm of friendship the actresses create is immersive.
In their brief stage time, Cole Smyth and Lex Garcia's suave Barcelonian brothers Manolo and Jesus, respectively, use a language barrier to fill their dinner party with Olive and Florence with uproarious, deadpan misunderstandings.
The stationary set (Jacob Hall), based in Olive's living room, is perfectly, spaciously designed for both Olive's life of sloppiness and Florence's spic-and-span remodel. The stage crew (Miranda Baltaxe and Amelia Myers) wastes no time in efficiently transforming the entire room from disastrous to picturesque. Student director Will Senkus' blocking and show design feel pleasantly sitcom-esque, with the rapport between characters exuding inviting, natural charm.
However, despite the sitcom similarities, no laugh track was necessary - the entire cast had comedic talent in spades, leaving the audience in stitches with their consistently creative quips and physical farce. H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program's captivating and classical "The Odd Couple - Female Version" is guaranteed to leave a smile on every face - no matter how different they may be.