The Odd Couple (Female Version) 

My urge to write a highly critical review of The Odd Couple (Female Version) was tempered by two things: an anonymous letter I recently received, and nuns. The letter advised me, that, as a theater critic, "[my] job is to nurture the theatre." The 10 nuns who saw The Odd Couple on the same day I did drove this point home by thoroughly enjoying the show: Every time I rolled my eyes, I caught sight of a nun chuckling gently into her wimple. While I was cringing, they were beaming benevolent approval. So in the interests of nurturing, here it is: If you are a nun, you will love this play.

The Odd Couple (Female Version) is just what it says it is: Felix and Oscar become Florence and Olive, mismatched roommates in Neil Simon's adaptation of his own play. As with any Simon play, there's smart, audience-friendly dialogue and kooky characters, but Integrity Productions' version gets stuck in a frumpy rut almost immediately.

The play opens at Olive (Kerry Sorci)'s sloppy apartment, as she hosts a ladies' night with some of her friends. Ladies' night is shockingly wholesome: There's nary a bottle of liquor nor back issue of People magazine to be found. Instead, the girls are playing Trivial Pursuit and drinking diet soda. The five women are caricatures of big-haired East Coast broads, copping accents with varying degrees of success. Florence (Kim Bogus) shows up late, near suicidal because she's just broken up with her husband. With nowhere else to go, Florence moves in with Olive. The scene is set.

During Act Two, there's an honest-to-god miracle: John San Nicolas and Casey McFeron show up as Jesus and Manolo Costazuela, lusty Spaniard brothers who go on an awkward double date with Florence and Olive. These two are downright hilarious, and bring a campy energy to the production that almost makes up for the First Wives Club-y vibe of the first act. Unfortunately, their role is brief; the play culminates in an uncomfortably shrill bout of screaming between Olive and Florence, as the two women finally acknowledge their fundamental incompatibility.

The biggest problem here is one of tone: Everything, from the hairstyles to the music to the acting, is overdrawn. The hair is a little too big, the music a little too cheesy, the accents a little too broad. The jokes are all of the "aren't we naughty" variety, which tend to fall flat with audiences accustomed to more sophisticated humor. But apparently in the cloister, jokes about middle-aged ladies wanting to get laid go over like gangbusters, because the nuns enjoyed every minute of it. ALISON HALLETT

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