The dry spell is over on the stage at South Whidbey High School.
The thespian sound of student feet pounding the boards will be heard once again as the students open their female version of “The Odd Couple” in the school’s newly renovated, 75-seat “Little Theater” on Friday, Nov. 14 for a two-weekend run.
“After a long break from theater arts and performing arts education, I’ve found myself once again teaching drama and producing an all-school play,” said director and art teacher Don Wodjenski.
“My choice for selecting Neil Simon’s ‘The Odd Couple,’ (female version) was to present a familiar story with a twist. The ensemble cast, six women and two men, seemed to me a good choice with which to get back into theater,” he said.
The ensemble includes Sarah Muncey-Gordon, Gina Knox, Nikki Enters, KayLynn Childers, Hayley Hanna, Safaye Smith, Connor McGee and Ethan Berkley.
Wodjenski said the cast has been a delight to work with and is devoted to being part of a quality show.
“They all have a great energy that will translate very well to the stage,” he said.
The students are appreciative of the play’s small cast and big laughs.
“It’s cool to have a small cast and get to know everyone well,” Knox said.
“I can never keep a straight face; this play makes me laugh,” Muncey-Gordon said.
Enters seconded that notion, adding that it’s really hard to be serious when the play makes you laugh so hard.
“It’s just been fun,” she said.
The female version of Neil Simon’s long-running Broadway comedy centers around two divorced women who live together, but can’t stand each other’s daily habits.
Simon’s famous update of his contemporary classic starts with a group of women friends playing their regular game of Trivial Pursuit.
The coterie meets at the apartment of Olive Madison, a divorcée who freely admits to being a slob.
“I leave a mess when I read a book,” the slovenly Madison says in the play. Into Madison’s life walks Florence Unger, a stickler for detail who is described by the playwright as one who would try the patience of a saint. Unger, just separated from her husband, ends up the unlikely roommate of Madison.
So begins the hilarious hijinx that results from the pairing of the slob with the fussbudget.
The students have embraced the hard work and big laughs with aplomb.
“We got a lot of inspiration from watching the original movie with the male cast. It allowed us to see more of what our characters were all about,” Hanna said.
Smith enjoys working with a small cast because it allows the actors to delve more deeply into the details of the play.
“With a larger cast there’s always so much to do and a lot to figure out. You can pay more attention to your character with a smaller cast and act better,” Smith said.
“It’s been fun for us as seniors because this is our last ride,” Enters said, who said rehearsals have been a relaxing way for her to break the intensity of senior year and do what she loves — act.
“Not for me,” Childers added.
“It’s been stressful with everything that’s going on as a senior from the play, SATs, college applications and after-school jobs that some of us have; it’s not relaxing for me,” she said.
Berkley and McGee take the parts of the Spanish-speaking Costazuela brothers who replace the British Pidgeon sisters in the original male version. Spanish teacher Jennifer Gochanour helped the two boys with their Castilian accents.
“I really appreciate how Mrs. Gochanour helped us in so many ways,” Berkley said.
“She went through our lines with us, worked on the accents, taught us how to hold ourselves and what the customs are in Spain.”
This is McGee’s first high school drama experience.
“This has been a great experience for me and I’ve really enjoyed it,” McGee said.
Wodjenski said the high school drama department is looking forward to the rebirth of the program which includes a collaboration with Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.
Next year, the department hopes to continue that collaboration and extend it to include projects with Whidbey Children’s Theater, as well.
Berkley said he is excited by the prospect of the having the Little Theater become a community venue for productions outside of school and a place for high schoolers to gather socially for impromptu events that require a stage.
A visit to a recent rehearsal of the play revealed a group of students who were enjoying the fun of comedy and the camaraderie that is vital to the success of every opening night.
“The Odd Couple” is produced by Jean Shaw with assistance from Jennifer Hagerman; set design and construction is by Cathy Russell; lighting and sound by Jeff Greene and his high school stage management class; and the poster design and printing is by Gene Koffkin and his graphic design class.
Due to the licensing agreement and adult subject matter, the play is rated PG-13.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays,
Nov. 14 through Nov. 23 at the South Whidbey High School “Little Theater.”
Admission is $10; students with ASB cards can get in for $8 at the door.