By Beki Pineda

THE ODD COUPLE (The Female Version). Written by Neil Simon; directed by Edith Weiss. Produced by Senior Housing Options, Inc (Barth Hotel , 1514 17th St., Denver) through Aug. 22. Tickets available at 303-595-4646 X 10 or www.seniorhousingoptions.org.

To develop a successful show into a franchise, some playwrights write sequels—as in the cases of the Plaid shows, the Nunsense series or the Church Lady versions. Neil Simon chose instead to adapt his very successful play THE ODD COUPLE to a different cast. Felix and Oscar, the original odd couple, in this version have become Flo and Olive, with the same personalities as their male counterparts. Now, however, instead of playing poker with their buddies, they play Trivial Pursuit with their lady friends. Instead of being charmed by the Pigeon Sisters from upstairs, they invite the Costazuela Brothers from Spain to come downstairs for dinner. While the male version can be screamingly funny in the right hands, somehow all the conversations about emotions and hurt feelings seem more natural to female characters.

In this case, the slobby Flo is played by the whirling dervish that is Leslie O’Carroll. At first she’s just a friend trying to help out, but it doesn’t take long for her patience to wear thin. Essentially she is a human dynamo, barreling through the deteriorating situation with energy and humor.  Her antagonist in this case, played by Sharon Kay White, is the simpering, insecure Olive. She is SO needy and usually oblivious to the effect she is having on everyone. Her fussy, manic cleanliness is so ingrained that she doesn’t even know she is doing  it. Pair this with Flo’s comfortable, well-worn ease and you’ve got a play.

The trivia-playing quartet of friends who care for both of them is made up of Susie Scott, Lindsey Pierce, Gina Wencel and the deadpan Judy Phelan-Hill. They bring a strong sense of character and comic timing to their scenes.

The energy level inevitably jumps a notch when the Costazuela Brothers arrive for their dinner date. Rory Pierce and Jason Maxwell, with their faulty English, heavy Spanish accents and dazzling smiles, create a whole new level of fun in the evening. Watching Flo flirt with them and Olive’s “deer in the headlights” look is some of the best entertainment of the evening. Soon, however, the innocent Olive has them eating out of her hand and sobbing into their drinks, much to the dismay and disgust of Flo, who just wants a little action.

Once a year in the summer, SHO creates this playing space in the lobby of one of the oldest hotels in downtown Denver as a fundraiser for its housing projects. The shows are always cleverly done, well cast, and suited to the shabby-chic furniture and furnishings of the hotel. You will not find a better way to spend a summer evening and do a good deed at the same time.

WOW factor: 8.5