This is the female version of Neil Simon’s classic 1965 comedy, updated by the playwright himself in 1985 – but forty-odd years on, does the premise still hold water?
For anyone who’s spent the last few decades living under a rock, “The Odd Couple” is about a pair of deeply antipathetic flatmates. In the original, these were the sportswriter slob, Oscar, and the hypochondriac fusspot, Felix, now transposed into TV producer Olive and her housewife friend
When Florence’s marriage breaks down, she washes up at Olive’s
apartment like a lost soul, bewildered and suicidal. Olive, who hosts a weekly
game of Trivial Pursuit for a gaggle of girlfriends, has no choice but to take
Florence under her wing – which Florence then proceeds to dust and hoover. It’s
a solid set-up, which Simon brilliantly exploited in a decade that was just
getting its head around marital breakdown and the idea that grown-ups could
live together without being lovers.
The switching of genders here has a certain novelty value to
begin with, but this quickly evaporates when we see Simon’s choice of love
interest: instead of the English sisters from the original, we are given a pair
of Spanish brothers who provide the cue for some dreadfully laboured ‘lost in
translation’ gags. The wider circle of friends is nicely varied, but in this
production so too was their acting ability. It was also irritating to see some
lazy staging, such as a much-used phone not looking even remotely capable of
making the sound they’d chosen to give it.
Overall, the play and the presentation felt a little tired.
Also, some of the best gags were unforgivably fluffed by the principal actors.
In a word, disappointing.