m-bathoddcouple-122608 'Odd Couple' takes a female twist

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BATH — If you enjoyed the antics of Oscar and Felix, get ready for Olive and Florence.
“The Odd Couple,” directed by Wayne Otto and produced by Thom Watson, will hit the stage at the Curtis Room of the Chocolate Church Arts Center Annex in late February and early March. In the meantime, though, auditions for the show’s six female and two male characters will be held Tuesday, Jan. 6, at 7 p.m. at the Washington Street annex.
Neil Simon wrote the original version of the play, which premiered on Broadway in 1965 with male leads and was followed by a movie in 1968 and a TV show from 1970 to 1975. Simon revised the production in 1985 to feature female leads cast in similar roles: Florence, the uptight neat freak like Felix Ungar, and Olive, Oscar Madison’s equally messy female sportswriter counterpart.
Instead of poker, the ladies and their friends play Trivial Pursuit. Instead of the Pigeon sisters living upstairs, the Constazuela brothers add their Latin Lothario personalities to the mix.
Otto directed this production in Florida about 10 years ago.
“Every time you do a show you’ve got a different cast,” he said last week. “You’re trying to work to the strengths of whomever the actors are.”
As the story goes, when the gang is playing Trivial Pursuit one Friday night and Florence shows up late, her friends learn that she is having marital difficulties. Out of concern for her friend, Olive invites Florence to stay with her, and the mismatched couple tries to make a go at coexistence.
“The storyline is identical to the male version,” Otto said. “(Simon) just twists things around just a little bit here and there to make it fit the six women.”
Otto is looking for men about 40 to 60 to audition for the Constazuela roles, and for women from 25 to 60. The two leads tend to be cast in their upper 30s to mid 40s, he said.
He will give the auditioning women scripts to read, switching them around in different roles to get a feel for who sounds best where.
In searching for a Florence, for example, Otto said, “When I see the woman who I think should play the role, then I will know.”
Otto acted in the male version of “The Odd Couple” 16 years ago, playing the role of Vinnie, one of Felix’s and Olive’s friends. Watson played Felix in that production, Otto said. Otto also played the lead character in “The Nerd,” which Watson directed.
Over the course of 15 years, Otto has directed about 50 shows, he said, which included “The Wizard of Oz,” Annie” and “Oliver.”
The play, which will run from Feb. 27 to March 8, will be staged by the Studio Theatre of Bath. For more information, visit www.chocolatechurcharts.org.
“People want to get out of the house and do a little laughing in February,” Otto said. “It’s a great, funny show. I think it’s funnier than the original ‘Odd Couple.'”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.