Performance dates are Feb. 8-9, 14-16, and 21-23 at 7:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinées on Feb. 10 and 17, at The Bingen Theater, 210 Oak St. in downtown Bingen.
Advance tickets are strongly recommended and available at www.bigbritches.org.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students.
Olive Madison: Kathleen Morrow
Florence Unger: Rebecca Stryker
Mickie: Kathy Williams
Sylvie: Barb Berry
Renee: Amber Sheaves
Vera: Alison Palmer
Manolo Costazuela: Connor Ward
Jesus Costazuela: Texx Spezia-Schwiff
Director, Bruce Ludwig; assistant director, William Thayer-Daugherty; producer, Julie Hatfield; stage manager, Adrian Chaton; assistant stage manager, Dell Charity; set design and construction, Douglas Hawksworth.
Set construction: Joe Garoutte, David Bick, Tom Butler and Eric Palmer.
Lighting design: Sheryn Olson; costuming, Kathy Peldyak; sound engineer, Joe Garoutte; tech operations, Zach Dunlop; set décor and props, Elizabeth Stillwell; hair and makeup, Anastasia Valentine; photographer, Chris Smith; graphic artist, April Sampson.
Place, props, and people.
“The Odd Couple” (female version) takes in all three essential elements of community theater.
The friendship story of neatnik Florence and slob Olive is the debut production of Big Britches Productions.
It’s Neil Simon’s twist on his classic comedy about mismatched roommate and the first show from Big Britches Productions, the Gorge’s newest theatre production company. (See Tickets and Times for show details, below.)
“Odd Couple” is the third theatrical production in the revived former movie theater that also hosts concerts, recording sessions, and many other events. (See history.)
That’s the place.
People: Local stage veterans Kathleen Morrow and Rebecca Stryker take the lead roles, supported by a cast of familiar faces and newcomers.
“Everyone thinks I’m more Florence, but in reality I’m more Olive,” said Morrow, who performed as Florence in a past production.
Props: A cassette tape recorder, VCR, the game Trivial Pursuit and a Puretron air filter dating from the 1950s, all figure in the contains a unique set of ‘80s-era props.
That and Florence wielding a mean ladle.
“I felt like we needed comedy,” said Bruce Ludwig, director and co-founder of Big Britches Productions, when asked why he chose this show as Big Britches’ first.
“People need to laugh right now with the state of affairs,” Ludwig said, “and who better to make us laugh than Neil Simon.
“The first one that came to mind was ‘The Odd Couple’ and on top of that the female version allows us to cast a few more women, who often don’t get an opportunity in community theater.
“On top of that, the decision was made before Neil Simon died last year,” he said.
Kathy Williams (Mickie) said, “I think it’s brilliant that Neil Simon actually wrote a female version. It’s a story of six women who have been friends from high school.
“Comedy and camaraderie: That’s pretty much what the show is all about,” said Williams, last seen on stage in “Cell” at Adult Center Theater last year.
New faces include the two young Spaniards in the show: Texx Spezia-Schwiff (HRVHS Class of 2014) and Connor Ward, who works as a SESA (Social Emotional Learning Assistant) at Colonel Wright Elementary in The Dalles. Ward acted “a little bit in high school,” but makes his local debut now.
“It’s been a lot more engaging. In high school, we did not practice as much as this,” Ward said. “A lot more anxiety, but this has been a lot more put together.”
Ward is enjoying the people — and the place.
“I love goofing off back stage, hanging out with Texx has been cool, just exploring this area, seeing how, this used to be a theater, and how things used to be and how we’ve turned things into how we’re using it now,” Ward said.
The story revolves around Olive Madison (Morrow), who is a slob but doesn’t care. When her neurotic, neatnik friend Florence Unger (Stryker) arrives on Olive’s doorstep, distraught over her marriage ending, Olive reluctantly offers her home as a refuge.
“Florence and Olive are true opposites, but they’re also good friends,” said Ludwig. “The question is whether they can live together without killing each other.”
(See Cast and Crew list for more names.)
Neil Simon’s 1965 blockbuster, “The Odd Couple,” has been a play, a movie and a TV series. In 1986, Simon adapted the story to be about two women instead of two men.
“We’ve kept touches from the ‘80s,” said Ludwig. “Big hair, shoulder pads, and the women play a cutthroat game of Trivial Pursuit.”
Ludwig directed “Chicago: The Musical” for the Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association and “The Full Monty” for CAST, both at Bingen Theater, which has been extensively upgraded since last year with new seating and lobby improvements.
“A musical has so many moving parts, it seems like it would be easier to direct a play. But comedy is challenging, too. Actors’ timing must be perfect, and this cast has done an amazing job,” Ludwig said.
Major sponsors for the show are: Cascade Acupuncture Center, DelCarpine Automotive, Indian Creek Family Eye Care, Insitu, Marchesi Vineyard, Romuls Restaurant and SDS Lumber.
Bingen Theater history
Owners Rod Krehbiel and Theresa North write on the theater website:
“The Bingen Theater began life in 1949 as movie theater called the Canyon Theater, showing double-feature films during Hollywood’s Golden Age.
“In contrast to earlier vaudeville / silent film era theaters (such as Portland’s Hollywood Theater), the Canyon Theater lacked the ornate gilded-age glamour and was not originally intended as a live performance venue — but was exclusively designed with the intention of showing films on the big screen. As times changed, so did the theater — closing for a time in the late 1960s and reopening later as another movie theater under the name the Gorge Theater.
“This too closed its doors eventually and the building lay vacant for a number of years before being purchased by current owners Rod Krehbiel and Theresa North in 2008, who saw in the historic building a unique opportunity to create a valuable and much needed community asset.
“Since that time, Rod and Theresa have worked to create a home for the rich local arts and music culture in the Columbia River Gorge. The building itself is in an ongoing process of restoration even as it becomes an increasingly utilized live performance venue and recording studio.”