Oscar and Felix are at it again — only this time, they are not the only ones. Ladies and
gentlemen, meet Olive and Florence.
Neil Simon’s play “The Odd Couple” has become a classic over the years; after its run on Broadway from 1965 to 1967, it was adapted first into a movie starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in 1968, and later as a TV show in 1970. Several spin-offs were also produced including “The Odd Couple II” and “The Oddball Couple.”
Little-known, however, is that Simon had also scripted a female version of the play in the 1980s, giving life to Oscar and Felix’s equally unkempt and ultra-tidy counterparts Olive and Florence.
This January, South Lakes High School presents Simon’s male and female versions of “The Odd Couple” back to back, hoping to showcase the humor found in each version.
“The essence of the story is the same [in both versions],” said Maria Harris, South Lakes’ Theatre Arts director.
The premise for both plays is that two divorced friends sharing an apartment in New York find themselves driving each other up the walls.
“At the same time,” Harris said, “each show has its own flavor. For instance, the boys play poker, [while] the girls play Trivial Pursuit,” she said.
Both casts agree that although the scripts are very similar, the humor of each remains true to the atmosphere.
“The guys are generally more raucous,” Dan Collier, the Oscar of the male version, summarized with a laugh.
“It’s all about the chemistry,” said Chloe Badawy, who plays Olive in the female version.
“If you come watch our show, we’re like an intense group of girls going ‘girls’ night out,’ and you can recognize the [girlie-ness] in us. And then [when watching the male version], a guy can relate and say, ‘oh yeah, I’ve had nights like that with the guys.’”
“THE ODD COUPLE” is SLHS Theatre Arts Depart-ment’s first production of the school year.
“By now we would’ve completed three shows,” Harris said. But because of the sniper incidents and the reverberations felt in the community and within the school system, Harris and the Theatre Arts Department were unable to form a production until recently, having been bumped down the schedule.
Furthermore, this year’s extra-long winter break and Harris’ travels both additionally cut into production time. Harris says that the students have been extremely cooperative with the intense rehearsing schedules.
“The challenge of doing a [production] like this is that normally we have one show, but in this incidence we have two shows that have to be rehearsed at [separate] times,” said Harris. “But that’s what makes it interesting.”
Each cast rehearses every other day for at least four hours after school, and longer on the weekends.
The students have stepped up to this challenge despite other commitments both in and outside of school.
All seniors, the four students who play the lead roles in the two plays (Dan Collier and Dan Katz as Oscar and Felix; Chloe Badawy and Amy Lerner as Olive and Florence) also dealt with the college application process in addition to being in the International Baccalaureate Program at SLHS, and in some cases, working part-time.
“I was flipping out [about the rehearsal schedule at first],” said Badawy. “But once you go to rehearsal the time goes by so fast.”
Katz has been juggling everything well, working on the afternoons he has off.
LERNER ADMITS that it was especially difficult trying to get into the swing of things at full speed after winter break.
“That was difficult, but as we got back into it, it’s been really, really good,” she said.
Many of the students feel that their involvement in “The Odd Couple” takes precedence to the other activities they participate in.
“I’m doing a lot of other activities, but this is definitely a priority,” said Natasha Parnian, a supporting character in the female version and a junior at SLHS.
Alex Bemish, a junior who plays a supporting role in the male version, said with a grin that the play was taking over his life.
“The way I like to see it is that this is an ensemble,” said Harris. “The [supporting cast] is just as important [as the lead characters].”