Playwright Neil Simon’s pairing of the carefree and slobbish Oscar Madison with the uneven neat-freak Felix Ungar in the “The Odd Couple” is universally recognizable.In a lesser known version of play, one in which follows the antics of a pair of women, Simon kept his characters’ timeless qualities but reassigned their genders.
The story arc in the female version is the same as in its male counterpart, said Kristin Lincoln, who directs the traditional version for Pullman Civic Theatre. Her version will premiere Friday, while the female version will open April 9.
In Lincoln’s version, Oscar, who is played by McKay Babb of Moscow, begins the classic as he sits around a smoky, beerbottle laden poker table with his buddies. The apartment is familiarly messy with the other bachelor vestiges of pizza boxes and dirty clothes. His total opposite has just moved in, friend Felix Ungar, who is played by Alex Cornwall of Pullman, as he faces a pending divorce.
They’re both writers, and that’s where the similarities start and end.
In the alternate take, it’s Olive Madison, who is played by Desirée Gould of Pullman, with her friends at the table, except this time they’re surrounding a Trivial Pursuit board and it’s 1985. The game is interrupted when Madison receives a frantic call from the desperate Florence Ungar, who is played by Shannon McGowan of Moscow.
There are set changes from the male version to the female version, Lincoln said, but they’re topical, like switching out a colorless copy of the New York Times for a “Gray Lady” with color photos.
Gould said there are time and gender sensitive changes to dialogue topics too, like adding in references to Nike and yoga and swapping the airy Pigeon sisters for the suave Costazuela brothers.
The personalities of the main characters, however, remain gender neutral, Lincoln said.
Gould said she played the fastidious Florence four years ago, so playing the brash, loud and often obtuse Olive is a challenge.
“There’s a lot of yelling and a lot of cussing – I don’t do that on a regular basis,” she said. “I work at the high school, so the kids can do all the cussing for me.”
She has adopted a New York accent to better enunciate these traits.
“The Odd Couple” has relevancy from the time of it’s mid-1960s debut through to today, Lincoln said. CBS rekindled the pairing in 2015 for another sitcom run starring Matthew Perry.
It’s the 21st century, she said, so mostly everyone has had a college roommate, or at least has paired up to save money, and thus has directly experienced how another lifestyle can clash with his or her own.
That “and it’s just really damn funny,” Lincoln said.
If You Go:
What: “The Odd Couple”
Where: Pullman Civic Theatre, 1220 NW Nye St., Pullman
When: Male version at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and April 78, and 2 p.m. Sunday; Female
version at 7:30 p.m. April 9, 15 and 16, and 2 p.m. April 10 and 17
Cost: $10 for matinees and $12 for evenings