This version of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple with female main characters is light, enjoyable summer theatre for fans of Broadway.
Many will be familiar with the screen version of Simon’s famous play, with uptight, neurotic Felix (Jack Lemmon) a foil for Walter Matthau’s Oscar, a slobby, macho sportswriter. Simon actually wrote three versions of The Odd Couple, including this one featuring two women. Felix becomes Florence, played by Nichola MacEvilly and Oscar becomes Olive (Gillian McCarthy), and both display excellent comic timing.
In the first act Florence, suicidal following the breakdown of her marriage, moves in with her recently separated friend Olive, although the two are polar opposites. The supporting cast of girlfriends, who gather for a weekly game of Trivial Pursuit provide plenty of laughs, and ham up the brassy New York broad cliché to the max.
One ends up wondering why Simon bothered writing this female version, which debuted on Broadway in 1985. If much of the success of the original lay in a comedic play on the gender stereotypes of the 1960s — Felix’s supposedly “feminine” attributes of hypochondria, neuroticism and domesticity, paired with hilarious notion that here were two men behaving like a married couple.
The female version dilutes this element; actual neurotic housewives are still depressingly common, and were in the 1980s, so Florence’s whip-thin neuroticism is not exactly a comedy event, and Olive’s vaguely masculine mannerisms are not equivalently inconspicuous.
It may not be Neil Simon’s best work but it’s still chock-a-block with the witty one-liners for which the New York playwright is renowned.
The gags that get the most laughs from the audience revolve around the neighbouring Spanish brothers who are the play’s love interest, a far more effective comedy double act than the odd couple themselves.
Jesus and Manolo draw laughs as soon as they appear, and a lot of the best one-liners revolve around their linguistic misunderstandings, such as when Olive is handed flowers by
These exchanges lift the second act, and the general impression is of a pleasant night of theatre.
Until August 17