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Odd take on ‘Odd Couple’ in Minden

Jo Rafferty
Nevada Appeal News Service
photos by Shannon Litz/Appeal News Service Left to right: Margaret Edson playing Olive, Sue Smith playing Reneé, Carolyn Lancaster playing Sylvie and Maggie Allen playing Florence rehearse for the female version of "The Odd Couple," presented by Carson Valley Community Theatre.
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The female version of Neil Simon’s 1965 Tony Award-winning comedy “The Odd Couple” first opened in 1985, starring Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers.

Carson Valley Community Theatre is bringing the comedy to the CVIC Hall in Minden, starring Maggie Allen and Margaret Edson. Opening night is Friday, followed by a second performance Sunday. The acting group will reappear for three additional performances in May.

In this adaptation, Olive Madison, a successful television producer and slob, and Florence Unger, a meticulous housekeeper, superb cook and decorator, are complete opposites who are thrown together when Flo breaks up with her husband.

“We play Trivial Pursuit in the female version, rather than poker,” said Sue Smith, who plays the role of Reneé. “There are six of us who are high school buddies.”

Smith began working in community theater when she was 14. Since then she has been in all aspects of production: acting, directing, technical and behind the scenes in California and Japan. Among her favorite roles are Ethel in “On Golden Pond” and Frau Schmidt in “Sound of Music.”

She has performed chautauqua personalities for students in Calaveras County, Calif. Her favorite performance in Nevada was as the cancer-survivor hat lady in a Carson-Tahoe Hospital TV commercial. Most recently, Smith directed “Whistlestop,” written by her husband, John, for the Douglas County Historical Society Players.

In the female version, the Pidgeon sisters (who lived upstairs from two men in the original “The Odd Couple”), have been replaced by the Constanzuela brothers, Manolo and Jesus.

“The communication between Olive and Florence and the brothers is hilarious,” said Smith, adding that there really is a lack of communication since the brothers can’t speak English.

The parts of Manolo and Jesus are being played by Bill Luckey and Rob Richardson, who is also the director of the play.

Richardson began his theatrical career at Douglas High School. and has directed plays for about 25 years.

Luckey got his start in show business at age 12, working with his father on two carnivals. His father was the master of ceremonies and singer of a burlesque show called the “Girl Show.” Luckey worked the “front end” of the midway, and in his second yea,r he was “Bally Boy” for the Illusion Show. About halfway through the season, the announcer left, and Luckey got the job, performing such acts as “The Floating Lady”; “The Mummy’s Case”; “The Lady in the Coffin,” whom he sawed in half; and “The Lady in the Fish Bowl.” Luckey also went to work for a New Orleans company that produced the TV cop shows “NOPD” and “The Tracers” as an assistant editor. He also worked as technical director for three years.

In 1974, he moved to Los Angeles, and got a job building sets for TV commercials. He got a part as a cop in “Eat My Dust” and worked on “Death Race 2000” and “Moon Shine County Express.” In 1981, Luckey worked on “Dark Mirror” as assistant prop master. For the next 20 years, he was a property master or assistant on features and TV series.

Carolyn Lancaster, who plays Sylvie, considers the part a new challenge – no music and more dialogue.

“I feel more comfortable on stage performing as a singer, but to play a dialogue character is really quite a challenge,” Lancaster said. “I’m enjoying it.”

Portraying Mickey is Linda Jo Diego. This is her second acting experience for the community theater. Her debut was being cast in the part of Clarice, Santa’s evil sister, in the holiday melodrama “Santa’s Little Helper.”

Chanden Tolbert, who plays Vera, says she is most famous for her presence in a fifth-grade talent show and for her “techie” work on a high school production of “Music Man.”

If you go

WHAT: “The Odd Couple,” female version

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Sunday and May 19, 20 and 21; 2 p.m. Sunday and May 19, 20, 21

WHERE: CVIC Hall, in Minden

Get there: Go south on Highway 395 North, turn right on Sixth Street, and left on Esmeralda Avenue, hall is in second block

COST: Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 the day of the show. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Tumblewind Antiques & Collectibles or Barone & Reed Food Co., both on Esmeralda Avenue in downtown Minden. Tickets are cash sales only and can be purchased during business hours. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 781-3107 or e-mailing cvctstage@yahoo.com.