Chattanooga Theatre Centre welcomes 'Odd Couples' - Jan. 24-Feb. 16

Chattanooga Theatre Centre welcomes 'Odd Couples' - Jan. 24-Feb. 16

January 23rd, 2014 by Clint Cooper in Chattnow Art

The Chattanooga Theatre Centre will offer both male and female versions of "The Odd Couple," with Carlene Conway, seated left, and Zach DeSutter, seated right, playing the messy leads Olive and Oscar, respectively, and Katlyn Gabor, standing left, and Sanford Knox Jr. portraying the neatnik leads Florence and Felix, respectively.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

* What: "The Odd Couple."

* When: Women's cast - 8 p.m. Jan. 24, Jan. 31, Feb. 8 and Feb. 15; 2:30 p.m. Feb. 2; 7 p.m. Feb. 6 and Feb. 13. Men's cast - 8 p.m. Jan. 25, Feb. 1, Feb. 7 and Feb. 14; 7 p.m. Jan. 30; 2:30 p.m. Feb. 9 and Feb. 16.

* Where: Mildred M. Montague Circle Stage, Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.

* Admission: $30 opening night; $12.50-$25 other performances.

* Phone: 423-267-8534.

* Website: TheatreCentre.com.

ADDED ATTRACTIONS

The Chattanooga Theatre Centre will offer additional programming with several performances of "The Odd Couple."

* Friday, Jan. 24: Opening-night gala at 7 p.m. (women's cast); 8 p.m. curtain.

* Thursday, Jan. 30: Real-time captioning (men's cast); 7 p.m. curtain.

* Friday, Jan. 31: Talk-back session with the director and cast members following show (women's cast); 8 p.m. curtain.

* Friday, Feb. 14: Girls Night Out (men's cast); 8 p.m. curtain.

You know them - the neurotic, fastidious one and the self-centered, sloppy one - or at least people like them. Indeed, their names - Felix and Oscar - have become almost synonymous with their characteristics.

Playwright Neil Simon drew them so perfectly nearly five decades ago that one believes apartment roommates always will be one neatnik and one slacker.

The Chattanooga Theatre Centre, in continuing an homage to its 90th anniversary, will offer both the male and female versions of Simon's "The Odd Couple" on its Mildred M. Montague Circle Stage beginning on Friday, Jan. 24.

"It's timeless," director Beth Gumnick says of Simon's work about the separated husband (or wife) who reluctantly moves in with his (or her) friend, despite their differences. "It's still really funny. None of the humor is dated."

There will be seven performances of each show.

"It's been logistically challenging, two shows at once, but also interesting," Gumnick says. "You have to make really careful use of people's time, but you have twice as many rehearsals to get in.

"It's been a little nerve-wracking," she says. "It gets a little confused sometimes because there are so many similarities, but both stand alone very well."

Gumnick says it's been workable in part because of the help of stage manager Kendra Anthony, who has supplied lights, sound and props, plus redressed the set for the next rehearsal and closed the building, all while being the mom of two.

"There is no way we could have made this happen without her talent and dedication," she says. "She has put in more hours than anybody else. She has been a rock star, a total pro, an incredible help to me."

Gumnick also says her leads - Carlene Conway as the unkempt Olive and Katlyn Gabor as the tidy Florence, and Zach DeSutter as Oscar and Sanford Knox Jr. as Felix - have done more than learn their lines.

"These guys and girls," she says, "are such go-getters. They're so excited to work, and they love the work. They love rehearsing, finding the stuff [of their characters], taking the time to play with their roles. They work really well together."

Indeed, three of the four, Gabor, DeSutter and Knox, do double duty, taking supporting roles in the opposite-sex production. Conway, though, was unable to appear in the male version of the show.

"They're really strong," Gumnick says of each twosome. "They're great foils off each other. Their partnerships work very, very well. They have that good sense of interplay between characters."

The original "Odd Couple" debuted on Broadway in 1965, so the CTC male version is set in the 1960s. Simon wrote the women's script in the 1980s, so the production is set then.

Audience members, says Gumnick, would be well served to see both shows.

"There are different things to love about each of the shows," she says. "They're structured the same, they have many of the same jokes, but they don't play the same exactly. Obviously, there's a different dynamic between men and women. But if you see one and like it, then you'll like the other one."

"The Odd Couple" was previously performed at the CTC in 1987 and, like this year, was done with both male and female casts.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.