Twice as nice: Dearborn High presents both versions of “The Odd Couple”

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Tim Smith (left) as Oscar Madison enjoys flirting with the Pigeon sisters, Gwendolyn, played by Lindsay Culp (second from left) and Cecily, played by Katie Polidori (third from left), while recently divorced Felix, played by Connor Blankenship (right), sits stoically nearby. The Dearborn High School drama department will present both the male and female versions of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” Nov. 9 to 12 with the casts alternating nights. A special ticket price will allow attendees to attend both versions at the discounted rate.

By Sue Suchyta
Dearborn High School’s theater department will launch its season with a dramatic double feature by offering both the male and female versions of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” during alternating nights on the same weekend.

The show will run at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 to 12, with each cast presenting its version of the comedy on two separate nights. The group plans to offer a discount to encourage audience members to attend both shows.

What happens when a neat freak moves in with a slob? Comedy and chaos ensue when a sloppy, laid back sportswriter lets a seriously depressed, neurotic friend move in with them when a spouse serves divorce papers.

In the male version of the play, poker-playing buddies spice up the storyline and provide the comic relief. In the female version, Trivial Pursuit and a girls’ night out provide the supporting cast.

Greg Viscomi will produce both versions and will direct the male version of “The Odd Couple” while Cynthia Frabutt directs the female version.

DHS Senior Tim Smith will lead the male version of the cast as Oscar Madison, a sloppy sportswriter, with junior Connor Blankenship playing neurotic neat freak Felix Ungar.

The poker buddies include junior Kyle Tillman as Roy and sophomores Nader Berry as Murray the cop, Joe Read as Speed and Austin Clark as Vinnie.

Juniors Lindsay Culp and Katie Polidori will respectively play Gwendolyn and Cecily, the delightfully ditsy Pigeon sisters.

DHS Senior Camille Charara will lead the female cast as messy Olive Madison, while senior Bella Fothergill will play the compulsive cleaner Florence Ungar.

The Trival Pursuit pals include sophomore Jordan DiGregorgio as Mickey the cop, and seniors Juliet Higgins as Sylvie, Marie Wolski as Renee and Kelley Thierry as Vera.

Juniors Westley Montgomery and Frankie Nunez will play Jesus (pronounced “hay-zeus,” which becomes part of a running gag) and Manolo, the Costazuela brothers.

Viscomi decided to do both versions of the show because the original script has only two female roles.

“This is high school theatre, where there are so many young ladies, so I thought if we did both versions on alternating nights it would give more students a chance to perform,” Ziscomi said.

He said the basic set will remain the same for both versions of the show with only visual changes.

Viscomi compares the shows to watching a situation comedy.

“Neil Simon is a very funny writer,” Viscomi said. “The story is universal. These two mismatched men trying to live together where one of them is literally turning into the wife – it’s comedic.”

Smith, who plays Oscar Madison, describes his character as a slob who doesn’t take care of himself but who does take care of his friends.

“He cares for his friend Felix, he wants the best for him, but he gets on his nerves,” Smith said.

Smith says he is naturally a neat person, and people who know him well were surprised when he didn’t get cast as Felix.

He said he found the lines in the script to be funny before they even got onstage to begin the blocking.

“It’s entertaining – I was entertained just reading it,” Smith said. “The lines have a lot of substance to them.”

Blankenship, who portrays the obsessively neat Felix, said his own personality is “not as bad as Oscar, but not as extreme as Felix.”

Blankenship also is enjoying playing Felix’s emotional extremes.
“One moment he’s crazy (and) cleaning, and the next he’s crying, and the next he’s mad,” Blankenship said. “He’s just all over the place.”

Culp and Polidori, who play the Pigeon sisters, have always been friends, and their giggling together comes naturally. Their British accents, however, have proved to be more of a challenge.

“You want to make it sound legit,” Polidori said. “And it’s hard trying to transition from just reading the lines and projecting and then saying it with a new accent.”

The two plan to work with an audiotape to fine-tune their accents.

They said that once the show opens they think that their friends will notice for the first time that they do look enough alike to be sisters.

Polidori said the show’s hilarity is not to be missed.

“The cast is just wonderful,” Polidori said. “Everybody is hilarious…so it should be really fun to see it all put together.

“(The show has) intelligent humor as well as slapstick comedy so it’s not just people falling over,” Culp said. “You have to really listen to pick up some of the humor.”

Frabutt finds it a challenge as the director of the female version of “The Odd Couple” to get her young cast to understand how adults would react to a life-changing event like a divorce.

“It’s interesting to try and get these younger kids to try to realize themselves 20 years in the future, to get that level of maturity, to understand the life experiences they would have had,” Frabutt said. “It’s a little bit like trying to… get them to relate it to something that’s in their life now.”

Fothergill, who plays Florence Ungar in the female version of “The Odd Couple,” described her character as crazy and uptight.

“She’s just separated from her husband so she’s a bit depressed in the beginning,” Fothergill said. “After her friend lets her move in with her she becomes herself again. She starts cleaning up everything – she’s just Monk-esque.”

Fothergill added that the cast is having fun just rehearsing the show.

“It is really funny,” Fothergill said. “We are having such a great time laughing and doing the rehearsals that all that will go into the show and when it gets all put together it will look amazing – we can already see it.”

She added that she doesn’t wear her glasses on stage, and since she is “blind as a bat” without them she said she doesn’t crack up at her cast member’s amusing expressions because she can’t see them.

Camille Charara, who plays Olive, says she is like her character except for a love of sports, admitting that she’s “very sloppy.”

“The sarcastic part is easy because I’m pretty sarcastic,” Charara said.

She said that since the cast is small and they all know each other, they react well to each other.

“It’s really funny without being slapstick,” Charara said.

Higgins, who plays Sylvie, says the cast has known each other for a while and they’ve been friends offstage so the chemistry between the actors is great.

“What other shows can you have a comedic show going on and be playing a board game at the same time?” she said.