CENTRE STAGE: Western Gold Theatre presents Splitting Heirs and White Rock Player Club presents both gender versions of The Odd Couple


Splitting Heirs – Western Gold Theatre

PAL Studio Theatre

June 24 – 26, 2016

Western Gold Theatre serves a vital purpose in our local theatre scene: they focus on producing plays that feature roles for actors over 55 years old. While they originally began as a company solely comprised of those in their golden years, the company now works with younger actors and mentors them along the way. Their recent production, Splitting Heirs, was Freyda Thomas’s adaptation of Le Legative Universel, a French farce by Jean-Francois Regnard.  

The protagonist of this story is an old duke, Geronte, played by Bernard Cuffling — a regular in the Vancouver theatre scene. Geronte is close to the end of his life and keeps threatening to die. He doesn’t want to leave his money to his nephew though — his rightful heir who he considers to be a wimp. Two servants take the side of the nephew and end up having to disguise themselves to carry out their plan.

“The language is just wonderful,” said director Anna Hagan, describing some of the insults the female servant Lisette (Annabel Kershaw) and Geronte throw at each other: he calls her a “silly slut” while she calls him an “old curmudgeon.”

Hagan explained that this production was a staged reading, meaning that the actors had scripts in hand while on stage. The decision to do a staged reading is largely based on financial restrictions: the actors need less time to prepare and therefore the company only needs to hire them for one week contracts instead of weeks of rehearsals.

Despite this, the set, lighting, and costumes were all in place, and Hagan spent some time with the actors on blocking and setting the scene. She described many audience members saying they forgot about the scripts after the first few minutes. Most of these actors didn’t need to rely too much on the script and the papers essentially act as another prop that is simply integrated into the show. Also unique is the way this play is written in verse, almost like rhyming couplets as Hagan described. This adds a challenge for the actors, and they all enjoy that, said Hagan.

The Odd Couple (female version) – White Rock Players Club

Coast Capital Playhouse

June 7 – July 2, 2016

The female version of The Odd Couple has been done before, but according to the White Rock Players’ Club, not in the Lower Mainland. They are performing both gender versions in repertory, but having seen the male version elsewhere already, I decided to opt for the female version. This was a nice treat to see the play from another perspective; to see Olive and Florence instead of Oscar and Felix, and to notice how the different genders affected the dynamic.

Neil Simon’s play is full of witty writing and relatable characters, and I particularly enjoyed seeing it translated into this version: instead of poker night, it’s Trivial Pursuit; instead of the ditzy Pigeon sisters the girls invite over the Costazuela brothers who are full of over-the-top Spanish affectations.

Olive (Launi Bowie) and Florence (Sarah Green) stood out amongst the cast as the ill-suited roommates as they butted heads. I found Florence’s performance to be perfectly melodramatic as she constantly has some new ailment or is complaining about some mess that Olive created. The two of them have great chemistry — and they need to as they share the stage for the bulk of the time.

There are plenty of laugh-out-loud lines here, and after 30 years this female version is still fresh and entertaining. The show is set in the 1980s, when the female version was written (the original version premiered in 1965), and the rotary phone and brightly coloured floral dresses and accessories firmly set the piece in that era.   

With a recent 2015 television remake and countless stage versions performed all across North America, it seems we still find this classic roommate tale relevant and entertaining. The White Rock Players’ Club version certainly is.