The Santa Clara Players production of Neil Simon’s hit comedy The Odd Couple will surprise you. It’s a 1985 rewrite of Simon’s 1965 Broadway play, a play so popular that it was made into a movie in 1968, followed by a TV series in 1970.
Anyone of a certain age and familiar with American pop culture, knows Simon’s story of mismatched male roommates and their frustrations over conflicting lifestyles. In the original play, Oscar Madison — easy going, slovenly and divorced — takes into his New York City apartment his neurotic, obsessive-compulsive friend Felix Unger, just separated from his wife.
For the 1985 rewrite, Simon does a gender transformation. Oscar becomes Olive and Felix is transformed into Florence. Instead of meeting with the guys once a week to play poker, the gals meet weekly with four other gals to play Trivial Pursuit.
Show Producer George Doeltz said that the female version of The Odd Couple was chosen for production because it’s more recent and is not done as often as the original.
“And it does deal with more modern issues such as empowering women in the home and the workplace,” said Doeltz.
Show Director Robert Casillas prefers the female version.
“I find this one to be a little bit funnier than the male version,” said Casillas. “A wider audience can relate to some of the jokes and arguments between Florence and Olive.”
Casillas also finds the male dates introduced in Act II of the female version to be more humorous than the female dates in the male version. The Costazuela brothers, Manolo and Jesus, recently moved to New York City from Spain. Their linguistic confusion and word play result in many a laugh.
“What’s the word when two men love each other?” asks Manolo.
“Brothers?” responds Florence.
“The audience should expect to enjoy a good night of laughter,” said Casillas. “They may recognize someone they know within these relationships.
“We watch what’s happening to Florence and Olive, and we see human conflicts,” continued Casillas. “It looks like a doomed relationship, yet at the end, we see their relationship is stronger than the problems that may exist between them.”
Hilary Stevens, who plays the gritty, gruff Olive, offered insight into her friendship with fragile Flo, played by Sandy Sodos.
“Friendship is an evolving thing. You have issues — little tiffs, but you always hope it turns out good,” said Stevens. “You work it out.”
Stevens and Sodos, acting together for the first time, bonded as real friends not just stage friends.
“Now we’re forever friends,” both agreed, hugging.
“Neil Simon definitely did justice when he flipped the genders. It is as funny, or maybe even funnier, than the original,” said Sodos.
Simon, who died in 2018 at 91, is considered one of America’s most successful — and funniest — playwrights.
“I enjoy the witty Neil Simon dialogue in common situations,” said audience member Bill Ereneta from Los Gatos. “He applies it to what life is really like. He’s current, it’s timeless. He reflects the reality of life.”
The Santa Clara Players production of the female version of The Odd Couple runs Oct. 25 – Nov. 16, 1750 Don Ave., on the grounds of Santa Clara’s Triton Museum of Art. For show dates and tickets, visit www.scplayers.org.