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A twist on a Neil Simon classic

Slob Florence Unger and fussbudget Olive Madison are the counterparts of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison in Neil Simon's female version of "The Odd Couple," opening Friday at Randall Theatre in Medford. Instead of the poker party that begins the original version, divorcee Madison has invited the girls over for an evening of Trivial Pursuit. Madison, who "leaves a mess when she reads a book," and Unger, a stickler for tidiness who has just become separated from her husband, decide to room together — with hilarious results.

Playwright Simon reworked the roles while preserving the humor and heart of the play, and Randall sets the comedy in the current day, when more women juggle career and family obligations. Linda Otto and Robyn Duquesne Fichter star; Dianna Warner directs.

"In the female version of 'The Odd Couple,' not a lot was changed from the original," Warner says in her director's notes. About 70 percent of the lines are the same as the male version. Poker has been changed to Trivial Pursuit, the beer has disappeared (women drink wine), and there's a nod to women's roles in relationships and Olive's job as a prime-time news show producer.

Warner says that in order to understand and celebrate the fresh perspectives that women bring to the workplace, politics and society, Randall's cast began rehearsing by meeting at each others' homes to see what developed.

First, they discovered women bring food. Men will bring beer, but women will bring food, she says. Second, men talk about sports, politics and media; women talk about relationships. Women compliment each other, challenge decisions and have the backs of those in their group.

"Armed with these discoveries, we set about creating this atmosphere for the play," Warner says.

Within days, Florence's obsessive habits begin to take their toll on Olive and their respective friends. The only remedy Olive can think of — a double date with two brothers from Barcelona — hopelessly backfires, and the two women are forced to agree on one thing — even the best of friends can make the worst roommates.

An opening-night gala is set for Friday, Jan. 24, with dinner and drinks at 7:30 p.m. and show at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20. Other shows are set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, and Thursdays through Saturdays, Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 and Feb. 6-8. Matinees are set for 1 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 26, Feb. 2 and Feb. 9. Reserved seats cost $15 in advance. Pay-what-you-want tickets are available 30 minutes before shows.

Randall Theatre is at 10 Third St., Medford. Tickets and information are available online at www.randalltheatre.com or by calling 541-632-3258.

Randall Theatre stages playwright Neil Simon's 1985 female version of 'The Odd Couple.' - Photo courtesy of Rodney Rampy