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'The Female Odd Couple' to play at New Berlin West

Leading actress is familiar with messy Oscar Madison

March 31, 2014

New Berlin — When it comes to living in a room with clothes flung pretty much in every direction, Allison Warner, New Berlin West sophomore who will play the feminine version of the sloppy Oscar Madison in "The Female Odd Couple," says she's pretty much at home.

"When it comes to my room, yes," the clothing-stewn set resembles her room at home, she said in an interview while the cast was rehearsing for Friday's opening of "The Female Odd Couple." Neil Simon himself adapted his own hit show,"The Odd Couple" to take the story from the women's point of view in 1985.

Allison will play Olive Madison, a sports show producer, reflecting the original Oscar Madison's sports writer persona.

The other side of the odd couple will be a hypochondriac and Felix-like fastidious cleaner named Florence Unger who will be played by Bailey Pietsch.

In contrast to Olive's laid-back approach to life, Florence is uptight and utterly incapable of enjoying anything, and finds purpose in life by pointing out her own and other people's mistakes and foibles.

Oscar's original sports-loving, beer drinking poker pals have morphed in "The Female Odd Couple" into lady friends Mickey, Sylvia, Vera and Renee who get together for games of Trivial Pursuit and talk about sex and men over glasses of wine.

But just like the original male version, the female play is about relationships with Simon finding comedy even in painful circumstances such as separation and divorce.

Director Judith Smith said she chose "The Female Odd Couple" simply because she has had to turn away so many talented actresses because there wasn't room for them in shows in the last few years. Recent shows have had a strong male presence and she said it was time to give the girls a chance.

"So, I thought I'd choose a show with strong women," Smith said.

Besides, she was Florence in "The Female Odd Couple" in 1988 and said, "I loved it, I absolutely loved it." And she thought her students would like it, also, Smith said.

But as they have rehearsed the show, Smith found a bit of a generation gap. One of the lines in the play mentions 1960s and '70s feminist and women's rights leader Gloria Steinem: "But none of these young girls knew who Gloria Steinem was," Smith said.

So for the cast, it has been a bit of an education about the drive for equal pay for equal work and the glass ceiling, a term that was coined in the 1980s, Smith said.

Bailey who is playing Florence in the New Berlin show said she likes the way her character grows throughout the play.

"She stays OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) but she starts out shy, worried, crying and upset," Bailey said. "She is transformed, and trying to portray that is pretty neat."

Bailey said she has a certain amount of sympathy for Florence, "I can kind of relate sometimes because I want things to be perfect." Bailey, a junior, played a leading role in the school's production of "Blithe Spirit" earlier in the school year.

While this is Allison's first high school leading role, she has played leads in "Our Town" and "Fiddler on the Roof" at New Berlin West Middle School.

The role of Olive just reached out to her.

"She seems so relaxed and really funny," Allison said, adding she likes making people laugh and Olive has some really good lines.

The sloppiness in the show goes to extremes and at first she was a little taken aback.

One scene has her pick up some sloppy innards that had dropped out of a sandwich and wipe her hands on her clothing.

"At first I was like ick," she said.

And although her room resembles the apartment of Olive and Florence, being a full-time slob is a stretch for her.

At home she said, "I'll say, 'I'll do the dishes tonight,' or 'Let's clean up so it's nice for mom and dad.'"

"The Female Odd Couple" contains strong language and mild adult themes.

THE PLAYERS

The cast for "The Female Odd Couple" includes:

Olive Madison will be played by Allison Warner; Florence Ungar by Bailey Pietsch; Mickey by Jade Piper; Sylvie by Ilisia DuMez; Vera by Paige Wurtzbacher; Renee by Elena Hausmann; Manolo Costazuela by Trevor Whittow; and Jesus Costazuela by Scott Ziolecki

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: "The Female Odd Couple"

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Performing Arts Center at New Berlin West Middle/High School, 18695 W. Cleveland Ave.

COST: $7, general; $5 for seniors at least 60 years old; $3 for students

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