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Unlikely pairing as Odd Couple hits Beijing

(Xinhua)

09:11, July 17, 2012

BEIJING, July 16 (Xinhua) -- The curtain will rise in Beijing next week on an all-Mandarin version of Neil Simon's Broadway classic The Odd Couple, starring eight Chinese-speaking actors and actresses from seven countries.

The drama will be staged at the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) next Wednesday and Thursday, according to a statement posted on the NCPA's website.

Producing the New York-set story in Chinese was an attempt to reach the local audience through their own language while keeping the original story authentic, said Georg Anton, a Beijing-based actor from Austria, who plays Speed, the story's gruff, sarcastic poker buddy.

"When I first learned about the project, I had doubts whether it was actually helpful for the play to have foreigners do it in Chinese, but then I thought about how dubbed movies are successful all over the world and how no one is disturbed by the obvious story-language mismatch," said Anton.

"So, having an American-looking cast perform the American story of The Odd Couple in Chinese might actually be the most genuine possible experience for the Beijing audience," he added.

Anton, who has starred in several Chinese TV series and movies and is a regular face on the Beijing stage, described the Mandarin version of The Odd Couple as "a pioneering experiment" that he is very excited to be part of.

The other seven actors and actresses are from the United States, Canada, Romania, Russia, France and Hungary.

The Odd Couple premiered on Broadway in 1965 and was later adapted into film and TV series. The plot is centered on two mismatched flatmates, one neat and uptight, the other easygoing and slovenly.

Its Mandarin version stars American-born Karl Robertetselen as Oscar Madison and Canadian-born Chelsey Mark as Felix Ungar. Both are fluent in Chinese and have been active in Chinese theater for many years.

"The play, with its delicate plot, vivid characters and strong comic effects, will open a new window on quality comedies for the Chinese audience," according to Gu Wei, its director. "It is different from prevalent Chinese comedies that sometimes win a laugh with vulgarity."

The production was a real challenge, as Gu explains: "It's the first time for me to employ an all-foreign crew to produce a foreign drama in Chinese. As the Chinese proverb goes, I'm the first person who dares to eat a crab -- it may not be delicious and mistakes are unavoidable. But we hope our hard work of this summer will pave the way for future endeavors."

Production of the play is managed by Hebei Provincial Theater, and it will be staged in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, after its run finishes in Beijing.

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