Feb. 21, 2012 By Christian Murray
In early March, a group of ten young people from Unity Stage Company, a Sunnyside-based theater group, will take the stage in the 1985 “female version” of Neil Simon’s comedy “The Odd Couple.”
In this variation, the title characters are named Florence and Olive, instead of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison as they are famously known in the original Broadway show and long-running TV series.
Neil Simon, one of America’s most successful playwrights, sets the stage for comedy by pitting neat-freak Florence Unger against self-confessed slob (and proud of it!) Olive Madison.
While tackling these complex adult roles, most of the actors at Unity Stage can identify with their characters. “I’m in the middle,” said Lindsay Walker, a seventh-grader from Sunnyside who portrays Florence Unger. “I’m organized like Florence, but I’m more laid back.” The accomplished young actress performed in Unity Stage’s December 2011 production “Figgy Pudding Short Play Fest,” acting alongside a cast of professional actors.
Meanwhile, Emily McKeown, 13, who plays Olive Madison, had quite a strong opinion about her messy character. “I don’t know how someone could live like that.”
In order to give more teens the chance to play a good role, the lead characters of Florence and Olive are played by one set of performers in Act I, then following the intermission the audience will see two other performers step into the roles. In Act II, sixth grader Olivia Guillotin plays Olive [Madison]. “It’s fun to play someone like that. She has an attitude and is a bit snappy.”
Molly Martin, a sixth grader who plays Florence [Unger], chuckles about her lack of culinary skills, given Florence’s expertise in that area.
The show opens with the girls’ regular weekly game of Trivial Pursuit, said co-director M.J. Geier, who works alongside co-director Daniel Weiner. Florence arrives late, depressed and near hysteria due to her recent separation from her husband. Against her better judgment, Olive invites Florence to move into her messy apartment. Within days, Florence’s obsessive-compulsive habits start taking their toll.
In the play, Olive and Florence are attracted to their neighbors, the Costazuela brothers, who have just arrived from Spain (these roles were the British Pigeon sisters in the original Broadway hit.) The brothers are played by two seventh graders: Spencer Lord and Frederico Michelin.
The teen actors portraying the Trivial Pursuit playing friends are seventh graders Rocio Ruiz as tough cop Mickey, Mary McKnight as gossipy Renee, Roxane Guyton-von Eck as naïve Vera, and high school freshman Miranda Delancey as wise-cracking Sylvie.
Seven of the ten performers are veterans of Unity Stage Company’s youth performing arts workshops. Molly Martin and Mary McKnight co-starred in the 2011 musical “Annie, Jr.” Olivia Guillotin, Frederico Michelin, Lindsay Walker and Miranda Delancey all took part in the 2011 Summer Stock for City Kids – an acting, dance, music and vocal workshop open to kids as young as 5. Participants are grouped by age.
Early-bird discount registration for the 2012 Summer Stock for City Kids sessions will be held on Saturday March 3. This summer’s concentrations will be Musical Theater (July 9-20), Sports dance, Zumba, and Flamenco (July 23-27) and Rock Band (July 30-Aug 3). Teens participating in Musical Theater will perform in the chorus of Unity Stage’s professional production of “Bye-Bye Birdie” July 28-31.
Information on Summer Stock for City Kids, Unity Stage’s Youth Chorus and ticket information for “The Odd Couple” as well as Unity Stage’s upcoming Children’s Musical “How to Eat Like a Child” can be found at www.unitystage.org.
“The Odd Couple” will have two performances:
7:00 PM March 9 and 2:00 PM March 10 at Queen of Angels Parish Center—44th Street & Skillman Ave.
Seating is limited.