This May, Robert E. Lee High School will present both the male and female versions of Neil Simon's beloved "The Odd Couple." Theater teacher Trena Weiss-Null is directing the male version, while her husband, veteran director (and computer consultant) Michael Null is directing the female version. Null has directed the show before with Weiss-Null in the role of Olive. They are both very excited about this "tag-team" experiment.
In Weiss-Null's show, sophomore Johnny O'Malley and senior Michael Southee play Oscar and Felix. Most people are familiar with the poker-playing buddies who move in together when Felix separates from his wife. Oscar is extraordinarily messy and Felix is a neat freak. You can probably guess how well this temporary living arrangement will work.
There are very few differences between the original "Odd Couple" and its female counterpart. In the female version, junior Erin Burns and senior Johana Rosa are Olive and Florence. They play Trivial Pursuit together every week, and Florence moves in with Olive when she becomes separated from her husband. Again, this plan doesn't seem like it will work very well, one of the reasons being that Olive is messy and Florence is neat.
Although the shows share the same story line, they don't share everything. Some crews are the same for both shows, such as set, which is headed by junior Dave Benslay. There will be one set, the interior of an apartment. In Olive's apartment, there will be more feminine decorating, which will be taken care of by the female version's props crew head, junior Cristina Fernandez. Oscar's apartment is much more manly; the male show's props crew head senior Matt Tritle will handle this decorating job. Since the shows will be alternating, this will present some unusual challenges.
The major difference in the two shows is that in the female version, Florence and Olive date Manolo and Jesus Costazuela, played by sophomore Kashif Shah and senior Daniel Mustone, while in "The Odd Couple," Felix and Oscar date the British sisters Gwendolyn and Cecily Pigeon played by freshman Jasmine Coles and junior Siobhan Sullivan.
Working on these shows is a new experience for most of the actors because in doing high school theater, they have never been in a cast of only eight people. Usually the casts are very large. The actors are not only learning the shows, but they are learning how cast sizes can make a difference. Also, it is a chance for them to work with a new director. In high school, often the only director the students work with is their drama teacher. In this case, the female cast benefits by gaining experience with an "outsider." Although Null is Weiss-Null's husband, nobody in the cast has worked with him before and they are all learning very quickly that every director works in his or her own way.
"The Odd Couple"s will be performed in repertory during the first two weekends in May. For information, call 703-924-8438.