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Theater review: ‘The Odd Couple,’ by The Courtyard Theater

SELINSGROVE – Whatever “Simon says” usually is hilarious.

Neil Simon’s gender-switching adaptation of his iconic comedy “The Odd Couple” is the Custom Taylored Production’s current attraction. “The Odd Couple – The Female Version” has 7 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. finale on Sunday, at The Courtyard Theater, 1 Susquehanna Valley Mall Drive.

In his acclaimed “The Odd Couple,” which debuted on Broadway in 1965, Simon’s mismatched roommates were Felix and Oscar, who – after playing weekly poker with their buddies – eventually hook up with the British Pigeon sisters. Reworking the basic storyline in 1986, the bickering roommates now are Florence and Oscar, their Friday night friends play Trivial Pursuit and the double date is with the Spanish Costazuela brothers.

This adaptation closely parallels the original plot in most aspects, although Trivial Pursuit for younger theatergoers is so passe – does anyone in 2016 even play any board games?

With the familiarity of the original storyline – not so much due to the stage version as the hit movie and the long-running television series – a lot of Simon’s quips and zingers may make the work seem outdated. To make an entertaining production out of overly familiar material requires some genuine chemistry between the actors or in this case, the actresses. And The Courtyard Theater has found some good chemistry.

During the first scene on opening night, tighter pacing was needed as one of the quartet playing Trivial Pursuit gave a flat performance, while the other gave an over-the-top, hammy characterization. Fortunately, veterans Kimberly Egan as Mickey, the cop, and Natasha Simenoff (very effective in the Courtyard’s last show, “The Mousetrap”) as Renee, two of the quartet, provide ample credible banter in every scene in which they appear.

Sasha Ernest plays Olive, the brash, slovenly writer who offers her neurotic friend Florence, played by veteran Jessica Paquin, a place to live as her marriage seemingly falls apart. But hypochondriac Florence frets and fusses while cooking and keeping Olive’s apartment sanitized to the point where Olive’s blood reaches the boiling point.

There are fine facial expressions and animated portrayals from both of these mismatched roommates, which produces lots of laughs. Some of the funniest moments revolve around Olive’s reactions to Florence’s gourmet cooking and constant mood swings.

A couple of visual effects add to the comedic level. Both when the long vacuum cleaner cord snaps across the room, and Olive throws a plate of spaghetti – make that linguini – into the kitchen, the audience laughs heartily.

Still, the appearance of the Costazuela brothers well into Act II gives the female “Odd Couple” a somewhat needed lift. Angel “Stevie” Tirado plays Manolo and Adam Waltz is Jesus, the Costzuela Brothers who come to Olive’s apartment for an awkward double date. Their misinterpretations of the English language and their funny innuendos gives this script a bit of extra charm and unexpected humor.

Heather Swartz makes her directing debut, with Bob Taylor producing the show, which has a running time of approximately two hours with one intermission. Although “The Odd Couple The Female Version” may strike some theatergoers as simply a relic of Simon’s glory days, by transforming his 50-year-old hit into a feminine friendly laugh fest, The Courtyard Theater’s production is entertaining .

For more information, visit www.thecourtyardtheater.net.