The initials are the same, but the gender is different in the female version of “The Odd Couple.” Also written by Neil Simon, the play is filled with his quick comic repartee and plenty of laughs. A fine cast, directed by Viv Goff at Cambria’s Pewter Plough Playhouse, gives the familiar story a new slant.
Olive Madison, divorced, sarcastic and messy, invites Florence Unger, a neurotic, compulsive neat freak, to live with her when Florence’s marriage breaks up. Their lifestyles are incompatible and the clash is both dramatic and comic.
In the original version of “The Odd Couple,” Oscar Madison and Felix Unger played poker and their conversations dealt with male-oriented topics. In this one, the women play “Trivial Pursuit,” and the patter is all about women’s issues, but the quick wit and wry observations are similar.
Hardly anyone speaks like a Neil Simon character, always ready with a quick, witty, sharp comeback to another person’s remark. Simon’s dialogue is funny, but it has to sound spontaneous. The actor’s job is to create a character who makes it seem natural for all this clever talk to just pop out.
Sharyn Young as Olive Madison does it convincingly, with a tough, smart attitude and some good body language. Janice Peters, as Florence, is also good as she emotes and flits about, often on the verge of hysteria. She embodies the woman that Olive says “wears a seatbelt in a drive-in theater.”
Their gal friends who gather for game night provide opportunities for some funny lines as they talk about their marriages and their other problems. Anita Schwaber is cute and gets some chuckles as Vera, the ditzy one. Jo Jackson plays Mickey, the cop, with a New York accent. Stacy Delany as Sylvie and Roxanne Brodnick as Renee round out the group and the conversations. They talk about Florence’s breakup and lament that a man can go to a bar and pick up a new romance right away, while “we have to donate a kidney and hope the guy is single and grateful.” (This was written in 1985.)
After Florence moves in, Olive decides to invite two Spanish brothers who live upstairs to come down for dinner, initiating a pivotal turn of events. (In the original, this was the Pigeon sisters.) David Manion and Don Dallman are a kick as Manolo and Jesus Costanzuela in the funniest sequence in the play as they stumble over English words with Florence. Both men have fun with their roles, making the guys both comical and sweet.
In the original version of “The Odd Couple” Felix and Oscar seemed to muddle along with their mismatched roommates and tolerate if not like each other. But in this version, Florence drives Olive crazy in three weeks, and the friendship evaporates — or rather, blows up. But Florence gets the last laugh — or almost the last laugh. There are plenty of them in this play.
On opening night the theater was sold out, and the audience reaction was enthusiastic.
IF YOU GO
"The Odd Couple (Female Version)"
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 1
Pewter Plough Playhouse, 824 Main St., Cambria
$15 to $20
927-3877 or www.pewterplough playhouse.org