Aimee Grice is wiping the tears from her eyes. “Sorry, I just can’t go on,” she splutters. “Let me … just … catch my breath.” She’s not crying: Grice is doubled over in a fit of giggles.
Grice is in rehearsal for SOAP’s upcoming production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. In the female version of the famous comedy, the eponymous “Oscar” and “Felix” become the slobby divorcee Olive Madison (played by Grice) and her irritatingly neat roomate Florence Unger (played by Leslee Hatherly). The comedy follows two newly single ladies as they navigate the rules of sharing an apartment and returning to the dating scene.
Grice and Hatherly (at left) are two strong actors, although relative newcomers to SOAP. This is Aimee’s fourth production, after singing in the nuns chorus in The Sound of Music (2008), then taking the lead in Sand Mountain (2009) and an ensemble part in Rumors (2010). Leslee took a small and serious role in this season’s drama, Twelve Angry Jurors, but her comic talents take centre stage in The Odd Couple.
Director Penelope Johnson is taking the cast through one of the funniest scenes in the play: Olive and Florence on a double date with their attractive Spanish neighbours, the Costazuela brothers. Aimee’s shoulders shake as she struggles to remain in character. Waiting patiently for the rehearsal to continue are Tom Szalay (as Monolo Costazuela) and Paul Everest (as Jesus Costazuela). Szalay and Everest have been practicing the Castilian accents and charming manners required for their roles.
“Monolo and I have brrrrought you frrresh flowers and frrresh candy,” says Everest, rolling his Rs. “Please to accept my deep felicitations. We hope you like them. The candy ees … um ….no good.”
“No good?” responds Grice as Olive, trying unsuccessfully not to smile.
“Si. Very chewy,” says Tom as Manolo.
“Do you mean nougat?” says Olive.
“Ah si! Nou–gat! Not ‘no good’… nougat! So stoopid. We are steeell berry new at Engleesh.”
Aimee splutters again. “Sorry,” she says, holding up her hand to call another halt. “It’s too funny, plus I’m soooo tired.” Grice is a new mother, battling sleep deprivation. Her babe-in-arms occasionally joins her at rehearsals. “That’s the deal,” explains Penelope Johnson. “Aimee can perform if I direct while dandling her baby on my knee.”
Also in the cast are Linda Venables, Lynne Richards, Diane Gludovatz and Jen Jensen as the Trivial Pursuit playing girlfriends of Olive and Florence. In the play, the ladies add some “gal pal” humour to the storyline, give advice, and play referees to Olive and Florence’s squabbles over housekeeping and dating. The foursome also act as surrogate moms to Grice’s baby, passing the little girl from knee to knee as they practice their lines.
Grice and Hatherly find they are growing into their characters during the rehearsal period. “Olive is not a stretch for me,” admits Aimee Grice, who revels in the opportunity to make a mess on stage. On the other hand, Leslee Hatherly, as the house-proud Florence, is dicovering her hidden neat freak. “My kitchen at home has never been SO CLEAN. I’m really immersing myself in this character.”
The lead actors are enjoying their time together at rehearsal. “Olive and Florence get quite a workout on stage,” says director Johnson. “The action can get fast and furious.” Lately they have been choreographing a couple of fight scenes (involving a vacuum cleaner, a ladle, a can of deodorizer, and a plate of linguini) and a chase scene (involving a can of pepper spray and a suitcase of lingerie). Curiously enough, Hatherly and Grice find the hilarity and crazy antics at rehearsals an antidote to their busy lives.
The Odd Couple is slated for production on Friday April 29 and Saturday April 30 at the Osoyoos MiniTheatre (OSS), and on Friday May 6 and Saturday May 7 at the Frank Venables Auditorium (SOSS) in Oliver. Tickets are $15 Adults and $12 Seniors/Students. They go on sale at the end of March, through Your Dollar Store with More (Osoyoos), and Sundance Video (Oliver). Watch for posters to indicate the start of ticket sales. More information can be obtained at SOAP@telus.net