Several years ago, Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild director Elaine Jones remembers directing her first show with the theater guild: Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.”
Now, she’s directing the same production, but this time around it’s Simon’s female version of the show — and it’s more different than one might think.
“There was a lot more work to do with this show because some of the lines, even in this version, are just so obviously male,” Jones said. “Even in the 1980s, I don’t remember a woman saying ‘I have to go to the john.’ As we developed, we accented or punctuated the right things.”
CVTG is presenting the female version of “The Odd Couple” Thursday through Sunday, Jan. 14, and again Jan. 18 through 21 at The Grand Theatre, 102 W. Grand Ave.
The comedy is “pure fun,” Jones said. Taking place in the 1980s, it focuses on Olive Madison’s and Florence Unger’s opposite personalities as they learn to live together. Madison, a laid-back, slightly messy woman, has her whole life interrupted when Unger, her neurotic, clean-freak friend, moves in.
Brenda Lee Lochner, who plays Unger, described her character as a “domestic goddess” and said getting to play her has been a delight and a challenge.
“She really runs the gamut of emotions,” Lochner said. “One minute she can be really pleasant and proper, and the next she can be a puddle on the floor crying.”
As the show progresses, Lochner’s character develops, as do the relationships of the four women in the show.
Though Lochner said some of the references are hard to catch because of the time period it was written, much of the content is still relevant today.
“One of my lines is ‘women are finally moving ahead,’ ” she said. “It’s not ultra-feminist, but considering the time it was written, it makes sense.”
Another reason people will still connect with it? It’s real. That’s what Kim Butnick, who plays a female police officer named Mickey, thinks.
Compared to the male version, Butnick said the female perspective adds a “twist.”
“It’s nice to see women can be played as not all the same stereotype — like the dumb blonde, or the sexy one,” Butnick said. “Though there’s characteristics of these, you see real women. We talk about sex, we talk about how our husbands annoy us, crude jokes women can make — as an audience member you think, ‘We’ve all said or thought that.’ ”
The seven-member cast includes five women, all of whom Jones said have different personalities, just like their characters in the show.
That, she thinks, is the best part, which is evident right away in the opening scene.
“They are playing a board game for the first 20 minutes, and all of the humor from that comes from the different qualities these women bring to the table,” she said. “They bring those qualities to their characters, and when you have four different personalities in real life, that causes humor.”
Jones thinks women especially will relate with many of the scenes in the show, but men and women of all ages will find something to laugh about in this comedy.
And while some of Simon’s shows tend to touch on darker themes, Jones said this one is “pure comedy. It’s not out to make social issues.”