High school presents classic comedy

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Daniel Barber, right, plays Oscar, and Ollie Bergh is Felix in Lakeridge’s production of 'The Odd Couple.'Everybody who’s ever had a roommate they might not always have gotten along with can probably relate to “The Odd Couple.”

Lakeridge High School is not only taking on Neil Simon’s classic Broadway comedy next month but also the playwright’s adaptation, “The Female Odd Couple.” The Lakeridge production drops the “female,” so both versions share the same name.

“The two scripts are largely parallel, with slight modifications for time period and characters,” said Joe Theissen, Lakeridge drama teacher.

The shows will be on tap May 15 to 19 in the Lakeridge Black Box Theatre, which seats about 100 people.

Simon in 1965 put to paper “The Odd Couple,” a Tony-award winning work centering around polar opposite roomies, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. The writer’s work inspired a 1968 film starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau and a 1970s television series. Simon reunited Lemmon and Matthau in “The Odd Couple II” in 1998.

In a typical snarky interchange in Act Two of the original, Felix grumbles about Oscar’s slovenliness, and Oscar asks Felix to stop being so neurotically clean.

“Last night I found you washing the kitchen floor, shaking your head and moaning ‘footprints, footprints,’” Oscar tells Felix.

Felix replies: “I didn’t say they were yours.”

Lakeridge senior Ollie Bergh steps into Felix’s well-polished shoes, saying he identifies more with the Type B Oscar. Bergh, 18, appreciates that he has to work for the role.

“I’ve been struggling with just keeping my body in character, that is staying tight and closed off and standing up straight,” Bergh said.

Twenty years after Simon crafted his 1965 classic, he revisited his famous duo, Felix and Oscar, reshaping them into an unlikely female pair, Florence Unger and Olive Madison, for “The Female Odd Couple.”

The plays are set in the eras in which they are penned, and there are other differences, such as the male duo bickering over poker, and the female pair exchanging barbs while moving brightly colored pie pieces in Trivial Pursuit.

“We will utilize a single set, which will be re-dressed each night to fit the period and demands of the two shows.” Theissen said. “We always strive to provide performance opportunities for as many students as possible, and double-casting a show is a fantastic way to do it.”

The casts are composed of 16 students, and a crew of 14 supports them with costumes, lighting, props, sound and stage direction.

Bergh said attendees are in for a polished, professional presentation because many of the actors, including himself, have taken on paid roles in the community — or even television. Lakeridge student Lea Zawada, who plays Florence, had a guest appearance in “Leverage,” a TV show set in Portland.

“I’m just in awe of her skill,” Bergh REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge High School students Mandy Wade, left, plays Olive, and Lea Zawada is Florence in the spring theater production of 'The Odd Couple.'

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