Unger and Madison are at it again! Florence Unger and Olive Madison, that is, in Neil Simon’s popular work with a twist: “The Odd Couple – Female Version.” The timeless classic opens at The Lewis and Shirley White Theatre at The J on Saturday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. and runs through April 3.
Tickets start as low as $14 and are available at The White Theatre at The J box office and online at thewhitetheatre.org.
Simon’s revision of his successful classic “The Odd Couple” sees the lead characters transformed into Olive Madison and Florence Unger, played by Brenna McConaughey and Larissa Briley, respectively. In this version, Olive and her friends’ weekly Trivial Pursuit night is interrupted by Florence’s arrival, fresh from being dumped by her husband. Fearful that the neurotic Florence might do something drastic, Olive invites her to move in as her roommate.
Overland Park native Sarah Crawford, who was raised in the Kansas City theatre community, is looking forward to bringing the show to life as the director of “The Odd Couple – Female Version” at The White Theatre.
“It’s always exciting to explore a gender swap,” Crawford said. “With the long-running original on Broadway in 1965, the beloved 1968 movie, and the popular TV series, ‘The Odd Couple’ is arguably Neil Simon’s most popular piece of theatre, and he chose to create this female version nearly 40 years ago. I’m really looking forward to digging in and seeing how this well-trodden formula plays with women in the leads.”
The story doesn’t just swap Felix and Oscar for Olive and Florence, it introduces the Costazuela brothers, Manolo and Jesus, played by Miguel Hernandez and Delano Mendoza, respectively.
“Those who know the play well always talk about the show-stealing Pigeon sisters,” Crawford said. “In Simon’s gender swap, you’ll meet the equally delightful Costazuela brothers. When they visit in act two, it’s uproariously funny.”
Also included in the performance lineup: Sarah Montoya plays Sylvie, Jenny Hines plays Vera, Kimberly Kershner will play Renee, and Kimberly Justice takes the stage as Mickey.
In addition to the strong female presence on stage, women are leading behind the curtain as well. Lighting, costume and property design are managed by Stephanie Meskauskas Leiva, Megan Segars and Shawnna Journagan, while Betsy Wendorff and Sarah Bezek shine as stage and assistant stage manager. Chelli Tillman, the head of wardrobe, manage the character looks as the play’s dresser.
“We felt it important, given the gender-swapped cast, and with the play opening during Women’s History Month, that, where possible, we make use of the vast reservoir of female artistic talent in the Kansas City theatre world,” said Director of Arts + Culture at The J and Managing Artistic Director Keith Wiedenkeller. “So, I’m proud to say that from our highly qualified director and stage manager, to lighting designer, to costume and props designers, and many other roles, this is an almost all-female team – and they have nailed it.”
Crawford, who is excited to direct for The White Theatre audience for the first time, hopes guests will enjoy the classic Odd Couple story with a twist.
“(The audience) should expect classic, good old Odd Couple energy and feeling,” she said. “Most people will come knowing it, and hopefully they’ll come because they love it. … It’s fast and funny, and we’re looking for little moments of heart.”
Tickets for the remaining performances of the 2021-2022 season are on sale now. Guests can enjoy “Matilda,” coming this July 2-24.
As part of The White Theatre’s COVID-19 vaccination policy for the 2021-2022 season, all guests must wear masks, and either be fully vaccinated or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. For more information, visit thewhitetheatre.org.
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