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Chamberlayne Actors Theatre The Odd Couple (Female Version)

By • Oct 31st, 2013 • Category: Reviews
The Odd Couple (Female Version)
Chamberlayne Actors Theatre: (Info) (Web)
CAT Theatre, Richmond, VA
Through November 9th
2:15 with intermission
$19/$17 Student/$13 RAPT
Reviewed October 27th, 2013

The Odd Couple is perhaps one of the most well-known and most produced of Neil Simon’s plays. There was the original 1965 play which originally starred Walter Matthau and Art Carney, the 1968 movie with Matthau and Jack Lemmon and the 1970’s TV Sitcom with Jack Klugman (who had replaced Matthau on Broadway) and Tony Randall.

For those who missed or slept through the 60’s and 70’s — the plot centers on the sloppy Oscar Madison and the clean Felix Unger, who are both separated from their wives. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

CAT Theatre is presenting the lesser known female version of the play revised by Simon in 1985. Olive Madison (Amy Berlin) is hosting an evening of Trivial Pursuit with her friends who include Mickey the Cop (Amy George Brown), Sylvie (Donna E. Coghill), Renee (Crystal Oakley), and Vera (Carroll Andrews). They are waiting for Florence Unger (Donna Marie Miller) who is late, and they later learn has separated from her husband and is missing.

I must admit, it is hard to accept the gender reversals of the well-worn characters at first, but the cast of women do make the characters their own, instead of attempting to do female impressions of the well-known male characters. Miller brings the essence of Unger’s neurotic, high-strung OCD traits, but it is Berlin who truly shines as the grumpy, sarcastic Madison. It is especially in the second act that Berlin captures the loud, angry, acerbic nuances that make Madison a classic character. Her Olive is one part Oscar Madison and one part Rosie O’Donnell.

Coghill is the strongest of the supporting characters and makes Sylvie the most life-like of the friends. Alan Gropper and Richard Halenda have some pros and cons to their performances as the upstairs neighbors, Manolo and Jesus from Spain (a twist on the British Pigeon sisters in the original). On the one hand, the pair have excellent chemistry and comedic timing, and bring a great energy to the stage with their malaprops and mistranslations. On the other hand, their accents do not come close to Spanish and alternate between Two Wild and Crazy Guys or Hanz and Franz from Saturday Night Live. In some ways though, this misstep actually adds a whole new level to making it a farcical comedy.

There were a few minor glitches my guests and I noticed as well. The set crew did not sweep the floor during intermission, so the dirt and crumbs stood out in Unger’s clean apartment. Also, a glass framed picture on the wall reflected the stage lights right into the audiences eyes. For some reason also, the energy seemed to drop a little in the final scene, making the second act drag a bit.

These minor issues aside, I was glad to complete my Odd Couple experience by now having seen the female version of this classic work. The CAT Theatre production shows that laughs can transcend gender.

The Cast

  • Olive: Amy Berlin
  • Florence: Donna Marie Miller
  • Mickey: Amy George Brown
  • Sylvie: Donna E. Coghill
  • Renee: Crystal Oakley
  • Vera: Carroll Andrews
  • Manolo: Alan Gropper
  • Jesus: Richard Halenda

The Crew

  • Executive Producer: Lynn Smith
  • Associate Producers: Granville Scott & Kelly St. Clair
  • Technical Director: Kent Walker
  • Director: Melissa Rayford
  • Stage Manager: Erin Lowndes
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Tonya Boucicaut
  • Set Designer: Max Snyder
  • Costume Designer: Elizabeth Nguyen
  • Lighting Designer: Helen Dunlap
  • Fight Choreographers: Aaron Orensky and Emily Turner
  • Props: Jim Scott & Sandy Siler
  • Light Board Operator: Joe Bishop
  • Running Crew: Katherine Anne Bishop
  • Set Construction Crew Lead: Kent Walker
  • House Management Coordinator: Linda Sue Underwood
  • House Management Team: Shari Adams, Lerita Carter, Janice Jones, Celie Seeber, June Spencer
  • Marquee: Lin Heath
  • Cast Photos: Kinney Thompson
  • Season Show Logos: Mike Fletcher
  • Poster Artwork: Mike Fletcher & Art Trotter
  • Playbill: Mike Fletcher & Andrea Wainright-Zimmerman

Disclaimer: Chamberlayne Actors Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. Also note that Amy Berlin writes for ShowBizRadio in Washington DC and Maryland.

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is by day a Special Education teacher, teaching History, Science and drama to Middle and High School students in a private Day School in Stafford. He has degrees in Educational Media and Special Education. He is also a part time Radio News Anchor and occasional actor in the Richmond area. Bruce is a native of New Jersey and spent most of his "adult" life in Upstate New York, where he started and ran a national award winning youth theater and cable television program for over 10 years. He has lived in Virginia since 2002, and in Caroline County since 2005, where he is active in many community groups; including serving on the Board of Caroline's Promise.

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