Female version of ‘The Odd Couple’ entertains and challenges

Florence (Victoria Eckhard) stresses about the dinner plans she and Olive (Cloe King) have made. Photo by Lauren Dunlap
Florence (Victoria Eckhard) stresses about the dinner plans she and Olive (Cloe King) have made.
Photo by Lauren Dunlap.

“The Odd Couple,” the theater department’s show of choice this semester, comes with a twist. Instead of putting on the original production that stars two male leads, they chose to stage Neil Simon’s female version.

Stephen Hinkle, Morrisville State’s director of theater and music, made the decision based on how the female version reads and presents itself.

“I think this version (has) held up a little bit better because the male version is a little bit sexist at this point in time,” said Hinkle in an interview. Despite being written 20 years after the original, the female version of “The Odd Couple” proved just as big a hit and earned a Broadway run as well, Hinkle said.

The play flowed well and used its set design to its fullest. In the leading roles were Cloe King, an individual studies student playing Olive Madison, and Victoria Eckhard, a dietetics student, as Florence Unger. Considering their amount of stage time that they have, King and Eckhard worked well together.

Their representation of the central friendship of the play is believable, enjoyable and funny throughout. King said that the hardest part about playing Olive was channeling her often negative behavior.

“I had to change my emotions a lot,” King said in an interview. “I went from being super angry to kind to sad to sarcastic. My favorite part was probably her personality because she’s so funny and I think that getting to say all of those harsh lines was not my normal self.”

Eckhard, on the other hand, said that her biggest challenge was to match the energy level of the over-the-top Florence.

“Flo is so much fun to play and I just get to go out there and be crazy,” said Eckhard. “My favorite part about Flo is that we share a lot of similarities yet we are very different.”

The lead characters were supported by Sylvie (played by Katrina Sitaras), Mickey (Eva Pecor), Renee (Lauren Dunlap) and Vera (Ally Agosto). Each help to bring a realistic dynamic to the group of friends they portray and added to the humor of the script. Pecor’s portrayal of a worried, police officer with a dramatic flair was particularly well performed.

The only noticeable downside to the casting was for the Costazuela brothers. Robert Epps, who played Manolo, and Cody Whiteman, who played Jesus, put on worthy performances but neither actor was Spanish. With tremendous emphasis on the idea that the Costazuela brothers were from Spain, casting non-Spanish-looking actors came off as inappropriate.

Since the play takes place entirely in Olive’s apartment and its central conflict revolves around the state of that residence, the set took an added importance. As with previous theater department productions, the set was well designed and the characters interacted with it smoothly throughout the show. To Hinkle, the most important part of set decoration is the fine points.

“Just little pictures and making the place look like it’s lived in is the hardest part,” he said. “It’s easy to put the walls and the doors up – it’s the little things that take a lot of time,” Hinkle said.

The turnout for opening night was relatively good. Attendees from the MSC campus and surrounding community were enthusiastic throughout the play.

“It was truly enjoyable,” said Rick Smith, a non-student audience member, in an interview. “Whether it’s the program or not, the main character Olive had an amazing smile and kept everybody just kind of beaming right at her the whole time,” Smith stated.

Ekhard hoped people understood Florence and Olive’s friendship at the end of the day and that opposites do attract. King expressed a similar message about women and their roles in the play and society.

“Women don’t have to be in competition with each other,” said King,“ It should be more about building each other up and showing men that we don’t put up with crap anymore,” King said.

With a brand-new cast and crew as a result of his long-time students graduating, Hinkle was uncertain of the turnout that he would have for auditions and stage hands for this show.

However, at the end of the day he was most proud of the cast and crew that made the show possible.

“I think they’re really good. They’re all strong, there’s no weak point there, they all do a great job,” said Hinkle, in an interview.

“The Odd Couple” ran until Oct. 29 at 9 p.m. in the Student Activities building’s Little Theater. Tickets were $3 for students and $8 for general admission at the door.Oct. 27 was free for students.

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