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Role reversal

In the mid-1960s, Neil Simon introduced the world to Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, two of the most endearing characters to step onto the boards of Broadway. The play, originally written for male actors, was adapted in the ’80s and featured female actors. On Broadway, Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers were the first to tackle the roles of Florence Unger and Olive Madison. The names may have changed but the laughs remained the same.

Tonight, the USF School of Theater and Dance opens this female version of The Odd Couple in Theater 2. The cast consists of students, and rehearsals have been going on for four weeks, according to director David Mann. Mann studied at NYU and the University of San Diego and has been an actor for 20 years.

Monday began what is known in theater as “tech week,” when lights, sound and all the final touches are added to the production to bring the show to life. Before rehearsal started Monday, Mann watched excitedly as a smoke machine was tested for a date scene in the second act, in which Florence and Olive attempt to entertain the Spanish Constazuela brothers. For those who remember the original, Felix and Oscar share a similar experience with the British Pigeon sisters.

The two actors taking on the roles of Olive and Florence are Johanna Herre and Aisha Duran, respectively. Both actors are juniors.

Herre says this is her first main stage production at USF and is thinking of heading to Los Angeles after graduation. She would also like to study in England. Herre says she feels that an actor takes on characteristics of any character they play and admits that Olive has made her a bit less inclined to clean up around her place. “I’m more of a girly-girl,” she says. Herre was involved in theater throughout high school; her stage credits include the play Bye Bye Birdie.

Duran has performed previously on the USF stage. She has portrayed Miranda in The Tempest and Maria Antonio in Cuban Bread. Duran says she, too, is like her character, Flo. “I can be compulsive and orderly.” Duran says she wants to attend graduate school in either New York or California, but plans to continue working on stage or in front of the camera. She indicated that she might also have plans to direct in the future.

Neil Simon’s classic has seen success in almost all of its adaptations, including the original play, which starred Walter Matthau and Art Carney, and the original television show, featuring Tony Randle and Jack Klugman. Then there was The New Odd Couple in the early ’80s, which featured an all-black cast and starred Ron Glass of Barney Miller as Felix and Demond Wilson from Sanford and Son as Oscar. The original movie saw Matthau reprise his role as Oscar but this time he was paired with Jack Lemmon as Felix. This mix would prove to be a winner, as the two would portray Oscar, and Felix again in The Odd Couple II (not to mention two installments of the very funny Grumpy Old Men and Out to Sea).

The play runs today through Saturday and June 22-25 at 8 p.m., with a matinee on Saturday, Sunday and June 25 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for students and seniors, and can be purchased through the College of Visual & Performing Arts Box Office at 974-2323 or online at www.arts.usf.edu .