Feeling like you need to find some humor to shrug off the mid-winter blahs? Washougal High School’s theater students have got you covered.
Washougal High School (WHS) Drama will present two versions of “The Odd Couple,” Neil Simon’s hilarious play about roommates with clashing personality quirks, Feb. 15 through Feb. 23, at the high school’s Washburn Performing Arts Center.
The drama students are tackling Simon’s original, male version of the play written in the mid-1960s, as well as Simon’s 1985 adaptation, “The Female Odd Couple.”
Both plays feature the antics of a pair of seriously mismatched roommates. The 1960s male version stars Felix Ungar, a tightly wound neat freak, and his roommate, Oscar Madison, a slovenly, carefree sportswriter.
In the female version, the story and characters are altered slightly. Felix and Oscar become Florence and Olive in “The Female Odd Couple,” and the original play’s poker game gets an ’80s revamp as a game of Trivial Pursuit.
WHS drama teacher Kelly Gregersen said the idea of doing both versions was a little daunting at first — especially considering that both casts have had to practice during the same time slots — but that he wanted to do a Neil Simon play after the celebrated playwright’s death in August 2018 and knew “The Odd Couple” would limit the number of actors that could be in the winter performance.
“This is the first time we’ve done anything like this,” Gregersen said, referring to performing two versions of the same play. “I think people are really going to enjoy it.”
The casts will alternate performance times during the two-week run, with the female cast opening the show on Friday, Feb. 15, and the male cast closing the show on Saturday, Feb. 23.
The female version cast will perform at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15, and Saturday, Feb. 16, and again at 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 23. The male version cast will perform at 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, and again at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23.
WHS seniors Emmy Campen and Audrey Flock play Florence and Olive in the female version of the play, while seniors Sean Finucane and Braden Harness play Felix and Oscar in the male version.
Other cast members include: Rose Elsensohn as Sylvie, Tori Corkum as Mickey, Maddie Wolcott as Vera, Madison Wilcox as Renee, Malachi Hight as Manolo and Luke Flock as Jesus in the female version; and Shane Fussell as Roy, Mathias Hight as Vinnie, Gryfyn Heinburg as Murray, Casey Rappe as Speed, Courtney Dillman as Cecily and Sofia Gunn as Gwendolyn in the male version.
Campen and Flock, the leads in the female version of “The Odd Couple,” said they were thrilled to work together, since they are close friends in real life. But Campen said her character, the uptight Florence, is pretty different from her own personality.
“I clean my room, but not like that,” Campen joked, referring to her character’s tendency to lean into the neurotic when it comes to keeping a clean house.
Likewise, Finucane and Harness, the male version leads, said their characters didn’t have too much in common with their own lives, but they were still having fun getting into Simon’s memorable roles.
All of the senior thespians said theater has been a big part of their high school lives, and a few of them said they hoped to continue acting after graduation. Finucane hopes to pursue acting as a career and said he’s waiting to hear back from his No. 1 college pick — Columbia College Chicago, where students spend a year studying at the London International School of Performing Arts.
Less than two weeks before the show’s opening night, Gregersen and his principal actors were feeling a little anxious about the forecast for snow on Saturday, Feb. 9. That was one of the only days the drama department’s behind-the-scenes technical students could work on building sets for the two performances, and Gregersen and his actors worried the snowstorm would impact the set-building day.
The students said they would find a way to make it work, even if it meant building and practicing after school the week before opening night. Gregersen said the show must go on, since the Washburn Performing Arts Center was booked solid with other events.
For families who want to support both the Washougal drama program and WHS class of 2019’s annual Grad Night party, Saturday, Feb. 16, is the best day to see one or both versions of “The Odd Couple.”
The male version cast will present the play at 2 p.m., on Feb. 16, and the female version cast will perform again at 7 p.m., that evening.
In between the two plays, visitors can attend an auction and taco dinner — prepared by the WHS students in the Excelsior culinary program — to benefit WHS class of 2019’s Grad Night from 5 to 8 p.m., in the Washougal High Commons. The cost of the Grad Night dinner is $6 per person, or $25 for a party of five. Auction and raffle items include handmade quilts, courtside seats at a Portland Trail Blazers basketball game; a $500 Visa gift card; and a guided fishing trip for four.