By Mary Boyle
Every now and then, a new theatre company pops up in Milwaukee, supported by larger, incubating theatre, and one of the latest is Lemonade Theatre Productions. Utilizing the Next Act Theatre in downtown Milwaukee, Lemonade offers up the first production of their 2019/2020 season, The Odd Couple: Female Version.
Set in the mid 80's, The Odd Couple: Female Version is Neil Simon’s revision of his hugely successful 1965 play, The Odd Couple. The play sparked the 1968 film starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, which then sparked the television show starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman from 1970-1975. Simon, who passed away at the age of 91 last August, holds the record for receiving the most combined Oscar and Tony nominations, and is also remembered for his other hit plays, Barefoot in the Park, Biloxi Blues, and Lost in Younkers.
Directed by Jessica Betts, this version of The Odd Couple really is just like the popular sitcom, but with women. Olive Madison (Brittany Ann Haut), a divorcée with a successful career, now lives alone in her New York City apartment. Though she's no Betty Crocker (the place is a mess and the food isn't edible), it's the place where Olive's group of friends (Michelle White as Sylvie, Marina Dove as Mickey, Sheng Lor as Renee, and Megan Harington as Vera) meet for Trivial Pursuit night once a week. When one of the friends, Florence Unger (Carrie Johns), doesn't show up for the game, they know something is wrong. Sure enough, Florence's husband of 14 years wants a divorce. Olive, wanting to help her friend and thinking it might be nice not to live alone, invites Florence to live with her, but Florence's obsessive cleanliness and dedication to domestic arts might be more than Olive can take. When Olive organizes a double-date with the Costazuela brothers, Jesus (Jesse Kaplan) and Manolo (Dennis Lewis), immigrants from Spain who reside in the same building, the wrong type of sparks start to fly.
Although the production is light and fun, especially if you're old enough to remember the 1980's, there's a reason this play didn't hit it off the way the original did: it just doesn't work quite as well, nor is it quite as believable, with women. Haut and Johns are well cast as the odd couple, but it's Kaplan and Lewis as the Costazuela brothers who are complete scene-stealers and get the most laughs. While the production is lighthearted and fun, it's a bit rough around the edges, mostly due to some awkward scene changes. For the most part, the play feels like being the studio audience for a taping of a sitcom which, if you had any experience with the first versions of The Odd Couple, is about what you would expect. Nonetheless, Lemonade Theatre's first offering is an amusing, entertaining, and affordable way to spend a couple of hours of your time.
The Odd Couple: Female Version runs through May 12th at Next Act Theatre, located at 255 S. Water Street in Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased by calling (414) 278-0765, or online at nextact.org, as well as at http://www.lemonadetheatre.com under the "Box Office" tab. Lemonade Theatre Productions is also running a special for Mother's Day: Buy One Get One Free when you enter the code "LOVEMOM" at nextact.org for the Mother's Day show, good for up to 4 tickets!