Amy Burton, Yvette Tappana, AnnMarie Rudstrom and Cheri Johnson rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Amy Burton, Yvette Tappana, AnnMarie Rudstrom and Cheri Johnson rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

‘Iconic, classic comedy’

Kenai Performers debuts “The Odd Couple: The Female Version”

In Olive Madison’s messy apartment, somewhere in the 1980s, a group of women gather around a table trading barbs over drinks and between rounds of Trivial Pursuit.

The fun evening is upended when their friend Florence arrives late, doing a poor job of pretending that everything is OK. That disruption will be quickly overshadowed by the shift in the lives of two women who suddenly find themselves living together — and just the start of the next show by the Kenai Performers, “The Odd Couple: The Female Version.”

The show, written by Neil Simon in 1985 as an adaptation of his own original 1965 “The Odd Couple,” centers on the dichotomy between two unlikely roommates in the 1980s. Donna Shirnberg plays Olive, who she called “sloppy and slovenly,” and Terri Zopf-Schoessler plays Florence, who she described as “a complete and total neat freak.”

“She is compulsive,” Zopf-Schoessler said. “But at least unlike Olive she’s not a grouch.”

Shirnberg, said that her character is messy and brash, but also that she’s a talented, award-winnning news radio host. She doesn’t mind what others think of her — and Shirnberg has enjoyed reveling in that carefree attitude.

“I get to say what I want to say, when I want to say it, to whoever I want to say it to,” she said.

Zopf-Schoessler said she had initially thought herself more the Olive, but credited director Rheaona Shirnberg with recognizing the potential Florence in her. She said she’s found fun pushing the neurotic character to extremes.

At the opening of the show, Florence is experiencing massive life changes, and her view of the future is painted by anxieties and indecision. She is given heavy concepts to grapple with right off the bat, including thoughts of self-harm, which the Kenai Performers do warn is a topic covered in the show.

Playing out the central dynamics between Florence and Olive has been fun, Zopf-Schoessler said, because she and Donna Shirnberg trust and create space for one another to push their performances further.

“She gets crazy, and I get crazy and the two of us just combust,” she said.

That trust and history is reflected in other members of the cast as well, Shirnberg said. The actress said the women at the heart of the show have spent lots of time working together in different formats and different productions.

“We have a phenomenal cast,” Shirnberg said. “To come together like this has been a very rewarding experience.”

Joining Olive and Florence are a pack of colorful friends, played by Yvette Tapanna, Amy Burton, Cheri Johnson and AnnMarie Rudstrom. A pair of neighbors are played by Raleigh Van Natta and Ian McEwen.

Rudstrom said her character, Sylvie, is sassy but also caring, the first to offer a kind hand to her friends and the first to razz them.

“The Odd Couple,” she said, is a lighter experience good for a fun evening out. She said she’s excited for people to “come in and laugh.”

Shirnberg described the show as an “iconic, classic comedy,” but said also that it’ll offer substance — “heartbreak, some tears and some heavy social issues.”

Though the show was a stage production first, several members of the cast pointed instead to the television series as a favorite. The concept is something they said they grew up on.

As the show has come together, Rudstrom said she’s felt the group becoming more comfortable with one another — “we do sound like we’re a group of girls getting together, laughing and having a good time.”

Also fun, Shirnberg said, has been realizing the 1980s, and especially the apartment at the show’s center, in the Kenai Performers’ space.

Zopf-Schoessler said it was the costumes and the hair that really brought the setting to life.

“In the ‘80s, we really thought we were all that and a bucket of fries,” she said. “At the time we thought we were just so cool, now we’re looking at it going ‘OK, this is a period piece.’”

To complete the 1980s aesthetic, even the version of Trivial Pursuit featured is a first edition copy from the 1980s that the group found on eBay.

“The Odd Couple” will play in the Kenai Performers’ Theater at 44045 Kalifornsky Beach Road. Shows are March 22-24 and 29-31, as well as April 5-7. The shows on Fridays and Saturdays are at 7 p.m., while Sundays are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at kenaiperformers.org or at the door.

For more information, find “Kenai Performers” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Amy Burton, Yvette Tappana, AnnMarie Rudstrom and Cheri Johnson rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Amy Burton, Yvette Tappana, AnnMarie Rudstrom and Cheri Johnson rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Yvette Tappana, Amy Burton and Donna Shirnberg rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Yvette Tappana, Amy Burton and Donna Shirnberg rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Donna Shirnberg, Amy Burton and AnnMarie Rudstrom rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Donna Shirnberg, Amy Burton and AnnMarie Rudstrom rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Yvette Tappana, Terri Zopf-Schoessler, Amy Burton, Donna Shirnberg, AnnMarie Rudstrom and Cheri Johnson rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Yvette Tappana, Terri Zopf-Schoessler, Amy Burton, Donna Shirnberg, AnnMarie Rudstrom and Cheri Johnson rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Terri Zopf-Schoessler and Donna Shirnberg rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Terri Zopf-Schoessler and Donna Shirnberg rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The cast of “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” rehearse at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The cast of “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” rehearse at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Cheri Johnson, Terri Zopf-Schoessler and AnnMarie Rudstrom rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Cheri Johnson, Terri Zopf-Schoessler and AnnMarie Rudstrom rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Donna Shirnberg and Terri Zopf-Schoessler rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Donna Shirnberg and Terri Zopf-Schoessler rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Donna Shirnberg and Terri Zopf-Schoessler rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Donna Shirnberg and Terri Zopf-Schoessler rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Terri Zopf-Schoessler and Donna Shirnberg rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Terri Zopf-Schoessler and Donna Shirnberg rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Terri Zopf-Schoessler and Donna Shirnberg rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Terri Zopf-Schoessler and Donna Shirnberg rehearse “The Odd Couple: The Female Version” at the Kenai Performers’ Theater near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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