Women don’t do so well in the world of acting. They don’t get paid as much, they often don’t get meaty parts (especially women of a certain age) and they struggle to be taken seriously. That’s why Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple: Female Version” has always been so wonderful. It is a play about women, for women, starring women. And that’s something that doesn’t happen frequently enough in the theater. Regardless, whether you are a woman or just a lover of good theater, you need to see Drama Dock’s latest staging of the hysterical play.
The Odd Couple continues its run at Vashon Center for the Arts this weekend.
Seeing The Odd Couple is a miracle in and of itself. The great storm of 2019 hit Vashon in the final weeks of rehearsal. As any thespian knows, those are critical weeks. Producer Trudy Rosemarin said the cast rallied and found ways to pull it off, including having a conference call rehearsal in the final days.
None of this “sausage-making” was apparent on opening night, of course. To recap for those who have not seen the show, the beloved characters of Oscar and Felix become Olive and Florence. They still have friends (but play Trivial Pursuit instead of poker) and they still have different approaches to housekeeping. The Pigeon sisters of the original play become the Spanish-born Costazuela brothers. With those tweaks to the casting, the fun begins.
The leads are played by Dedra Dakota (Florence) and Cate O’Kane (Olive). Their friends are portrayed by Bonny Moss, Chai Ste. Marie, Thea Vernoy and Sue Denies, and the Costazuela brothers are performed by Russell Baker and James Norton. The show is directed by Chaim Rosemarin.
Lead actors Dakota and O’Kane do a great job with the wonderful Simon writing. The friends have some fantastic lines that are delivered with great humor, with impeccable timing particularly by Moss and long-time local thespian Denies.
A highlight of the play continues to be the arrival of the Costazuela brothers. Norton and Baker do a fabulous job with their comic relief roles and left the audience howling.
On opening night, the audience included four women who acted in the show last time it was performed on Vashon a decade ago. The leads were then played by Dianna Daniel and Gretchen Neffenger, who were both heartily enjoying watching the new actors take on their parts last weekend. When asked how the play can still make you laugh after you have acted in it yourself, Neffenger said simply, “It’s Neil Simon.” Truer words were never spoken, as the gifted late playwright’s words continue to delight audiences.
One quibble with the script: When Simon updated the play with women, it was a fresh idea. That idea is now 30 years ago. This leaves the women playing Trivial Pursuit (no longer quite the rage it was then) and also leaves some of the humor feeling insensitive and out of step with the times, particularly regarding the Costazuela brothers and misunderstanding their Spanish accents.
And here are a few shout-outs: the first is about the new faces joining the cast. It is wonderful to see some new actors on the scene, bringing pretty impressive backgrounds to our small community theater. And speaking of our community theater, thanks to those who pulled off the show, snowstorm and all. Every Drama Dock show takes enormous work the audience never sees and those long-time stalwarts of local theater bonded together to pull this one off. On opening night, they were front and center, from board members volunteering (Elise Merrill, Gaye Detzer, Sue Wiley and Boo Dinan-Slack were all on the scene), to those listed in the program who always do their part, like Craig Hanson designing his 900th (or so) set. Our community is blessed with hardworking volunteers who pull off the show again and again.
But the play is the thing. This show is directed capably by Rosemarin, acted wonderfully by its cast of women and men and features fantastic material that has delighted people for generations. Ultimately, the play is about the enduring power of women, their friendships, their hobbies, their humor, their bravery and resilience.
After being snowed in, denied simple pleasures because of power outages, trapped in mud and slush, what could be better this weekend than to go to the arts center and enjoy theater from local talent, written by one of our greatest playwrights, and celebrate women while you are at it?
“The Odd Couple: Female Version” plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21, 22, 23; and 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24. Tickets, on sale at vashoncenterforthearts.org, cost $18-$20. On Thursday, Feb. 21, admission is by donation at the door.