In a pivotal scene in the first act of the Floyd Community Theatre Guild’s “The Odd Couple,” as Florence Unger (portrayed by Cindy Tueller) is facing a divorce with her husband, her close friend Olive Madison (Makala Vest Witten) offers advice for getting through it: eat ice cream every night. After her own divorce, Olive says, “I gained 14 pounds—seven on each hip!” But she survived.
The strange feeling that rushes through the air as Olive’s joke lands—a mix of amusement, familiarity, pity and comfort—is characteristic of the entire show. The production chronicles the lives of two women who, despite their differences, try to alleviate the loneliness of life together. The Floyd troupe’s interpretation of the Neil Simon classic features a primarily-female cast led by Tueller and Vest Witten. Tonya Hall directs, and said the decision to do a female version of the popular play was mostly logistical—“everywhere, in every town,” Hall said, there are more available actresses than actors.
Nonetheless, Hall revels in the opportunity to direct this cast—she said her favorite part of the show are the group scenes, which she said, “make the show seem real.” The friendships among the ensemble cast members, she explained, “make us realize the friendship between the main two [Olive and Florence.]” The cast, which has been rehearsing three times a week for the past six to eight weeks, was able to have “more of a bonding experience” since only women attended most rehearsals. Hall said the women “literally played board games together” during rehearsals to prepare for the show.
But the two main leads have known each other for a while already. Hall’s production company, HaeBo, recently presented “Steel Magnolias” at the Warm Hearth Community Center in Blacksburg, another female-led show that featured both Tueller and Vest Witten. And although the cast is entirely amateur performers, Vest Witten has likely honed her theatre chops as the drama teacher at Christiansburg High School.
“The Odd Couple” is set in 1980s New York and is sure to feature colorful costumes, fun music and lots of hilarious decades-old references that, Hall said, sometimes go over the heads of the younger cast members. The show promises to be a delightful romp about the pain and indignities involved with womanhood, as well as the importance of friendship, strength and humor for prevailing through it all. The Floyd production opens Thursday, Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at the June Bug Center, with subsequent evening shows Friday–Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and can be purchased in advance at floydctg.com.