By Daniel Skora
So popular was Neil Simon’s comedy “The Odd Couple”, that he just couldn’t resist the temptation to adapt the play for the ladies. “The Odd Couple (Female Version)” is currently being performed at the Tipping Point Theatre in a production that proves that this play is anything but a little sister to the big brother male version. It’s hilarious, it’s well done, and it’s capable of standing by itself as a vital piece of American stage comedy.
Olive Madison, the equivalent of Oscar in the original version, is generally played as a character with but a single purpose: to be as annoyed and irritated as she can be about the fastidiousness of her friend Florence Ungar (Felix). Played here by Dani Cochrane, Olive is no stereotype. Yes, she’s not much for housekeeping. And yes, cardboard pizza more often than not constitutes a complete meal. But she’s a professional woman, mature and successful, and sloppiness aside, she has genuine feelings for Florence, who’s left two kids and a husband behind and now has no place to stay.
Florence, a homemaker who has lost the security of her family, generates more sympathy than Felix, her “Odd Couple” counterpart. Florence is played by Katherine Banks, whose exceptional acting range allows her to both play it straight or play it for laughs. She has a wonderfully expressive face that can instantly deliver a broad range of emotions. And both Cochrane and Banks are up to doing the physical comedy that’s needed for this show.
Here, instead of poker night, the ladies play Trivial Pursuit, a game popular in 1985, the time in which the play is set. Unlike the card game in the male version which never seems to become a relevant part of the story, the question and answer game manages to generate a few laughs of its own. Olive’s girlfriends include Renee (Julia Garlotte), Sylvie (Sonja Marquis), Vera (Angela Miller), and Mickey (Melynee Saunders Warren), all of whom are a vital part of the story.
The second act has the Costazuela brothers entering the picture. The two Latin lovers whom Olive met on the elevator are looking to have a night of fun with their new lady friends. They’re the female equivalent of the Pigeon sisters in the original “Odd Couple”. Manolo (Patrick Loos) is the older of the two, and though he’s got romance written all over him, he respects women and would never force his affections on them. Jesus (Nick Yocum) is his younger brother, sweet and smooth to the ladies, but still having a few things to learn about love. Under the tutelage of his older brother, he’s sort of a Latin lover in training. Olive is ripe for male companionship; Florence is too newly separated from her husband and children to even think about sex.
It will be a long time before you ever see “The Odd Couple (Female Version) done this well. The show is directed by Lynn Wilde Concannon, who has put together a pitch-perfect production.. The entire cast is terrific, with Banks and Cochrane making a formidable pair of leads. The “girlfriends” are not just window dressing, but go a long way towards making the show something more than a two-character show. Loos and Yocum are hilarious as the Costazuela brothers, and when they exit the stage, they leave with the audience wanting more. Don W. Bascha’s set design for Olive’s living area is bright and roomy. Lighting is by David Koltunchik, with Colleen Ryan-Peters in charge of costume design.
Concurrent with Tipping Point’s production of “The Odd Couple (Female Version)” is the original “Odd Couple” being presented by the Purple Rose Theatre. See below (February 2nd) for a review of their production.
“The Odd Couple (Female Version)” runs through February 28th. Tickets are available online at www.tippingpointtheatre.com or at the theatre’s box office, open Mon. through Fri., 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm and 90 minutes prior to all performances. Tipping Point Theatre is located at 361 E. Cady Street in Northville, telephone number 248.347.0003.