Friday, August 12, 2011

More than a 'couple' of laughs

Need a laugh? How about several of them? M&D Productions has the solution with its production of “The Odd Couple: The Female Version,” which opened Thursday at Your Theatre in North Conway, N.H. and is playing Thursday through Saturday for the next three weeks.
Neil Simon's “The Odd Couple,” the story of slob and a neat freak who decide to move in together, has seen many incarnations and first appeared on Broadway in 1965. The play spawned the successful 1968 film starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, which in turn spawned the popular TV series that aired from 1970 to 1975 starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.
On the 20th anniversary of the show, Simon decided to revisit the characters, but with a gender reversal. Thus, Oscar, the slovenly one, and Felix, the fastidious one, became Olive and Florence. Julianne Brosnan takes on the role of Olive and Jane Duggan that of Florence, and they make a good team.
Brosnan, who last year appeared as the uptight Sister Aloysius in “Doubt,” gets to let loose as the proudly messy Olive while Duggan makes it rather easy to see how anyone would be driven crazy by Florence after mere hours together let alone days and weeks. This is comic dialogue that is all about delivery and timing and these two, under the direction of Rich Russo, hit every line just right.
Much of the female version is word for word the same as its predecessor. All the most iconic moments, such as the linguine scene, are still intact. There are two major changes in content. Poker night with guys is now Trivial Pursuit with the ladies. In the original version Felix and Oscar have a date with their neighbors, the Pigeon sisters from England. In the female version Florence and Olive have a date with the Costazuela brothers from Spain.
This production has gathered together a strong group of women to play the Trivial Pursuit night friends. Karen Gustafson as Mickey “The Cop,” Janette Kondrat as the sarcastic Sylvie, Christina Howe as Renne and Pa'Mela Ramsay as the dimwitted Vera have terrific chemistry together, and the scenes have an easygoing flow. There's a great energy when a suicidal Florence arrives late to Trivial Pursuit after her husband leaves her.
It is with the brothers that Simon actually upgrades upon the original. The brothers are still struggling with the English language which leads to some confusion of terms that have the flavor of classic vaudeville.
As played by Eric Jordan and Doug Collomy, the Costazuela brothers are absolutely hilarious. They come in during the second act and re-energize the show. Collomy speaks in a fast, high-pitched voice that is just right, while Jordan is slightly more suave of the duo. It is board caricature not dissimilar to the “two wild and crazy guys” character from “Saturday Night Live,” but it works extremely well. Duggan has the most stage time with these two, and the way these three play off each other is priceless.
The laughs come fast and often in this production and they are long and hearty. Some dialogue may be missed over the roar of the laughter and that's no exaggeration.
Call the box office at 662-7591 for tickets.

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