Rumors. We’ve all heard them. Some of us have probably even been the source of some. And they are the basis for Neil Simon’s play, Rumors, which opened at the Barn Players this weekend. This beautifully crafted farce tells the story of Charlie and Myra, but not from actual events, but through… you guessed it… rumors.
The story opens in the middle of a situation. Ken and Chris Gorman (Trevor Bolt and Rachael Redler) were dressed to the nines coming to Charlie and Myra’s 10th anniversary when they hear a gunshot from inside. When no one answers the door, they proceed to break in and find Charlie alone in the house, in his bedroom bleeding and unable to communicate. That is the only thing we know for certain. As the play begins we are waiting for a call from Dr. Dudley, who is apparently a VERY popular doctor trying to enjoy a night out at The Phantom of the Opera to no avail.
In the midst of triage and determining that Charlie’s only wound is his ear lobe, the other guests of the party start to arrive two by two. Lenny and Claire Ganz (Terry Erbe and Victoria Hoffman) are the first to arrive shaken but not stirred after a run in with a Porsche down the street that bashes Lenny’s new BMW. Nursing their wounds when they enter, they find the Gormans attempting to cover up what they believe is an attempted suicide because it’s illegal and their good friend Charlie could be in big trouble. Seeing that the help is missing, the hosts are not visible and there is a kitchen full of food ready to prepare, the Ganzs start getting suspicious. It’s here that the rumors start flying just as fast as the guests arrive.
Ernie and Cookie Cusack (Doug Ford and Dee Dee Diemer) are next the arrive. They are the doting couple that make you sick at parties. Ernie is a therapist and Cookie is an eccentric cooking show host with a back that she just threw out. She even brings her own pillow. Despite a list of hilariously growing maladies, the Cusacks are unwittingly used to replace the servants and prepare the dinner to keep them from getting suspicious.
The last couple to arrive are the Glenn and Cassie Cooper (Peter Leondedis and Larissa Briley). Glenn is a candidate for State Senate and Cassie is his jealous, crystal loving spouse who is convinced the rumors of his affair are true. Leondedis plays a great straight man for much of the play as he navigates this mess trying to escape politically unscathed.
By the end of the first act, Simon has created an eclectic mix of characters and an intriguing situation that grows more farcical in the second act with the addition of Officers Welch (Max C. DeShon) and Pudney (Nora Dooley) who come to investigate. As the group tries to cover up everything, they actually make it worse for themselves. What will they do to save their friend and themselves? Pretty much anything. As the play ends we are left only with the rumors, but that is a very satisfying ending indeed.
Director Bill Pelletier has a strong cast and creates a heightened sense of comedy. The actors are staged to keep the action going and Pelletier adds the appropriate physical comedy to the script. Farce has ebbs and flows but it needs to reach a certain frenzy to be true to the genre. It’s there that Pelletier seems to fall short of the energy and pacing required for the play to really hit it’s farcical peaks.
All the actors do great with keeping the characters grounded and believable, which can be a challenge in a farce. They are well paired and all talented actors in their own rights. I would have liked to see more from Erbe as he has an important part and we never really feel the rise and fall of the urgency of the situation that is required. By the middle of the second act, they all work so well together that the absurd becomes believable. There are a few standouts. Doug Ford whose affable Ernie eventually reaches his breaking point. His physical comedy skills excel as he endures some very funny injuries. Trevor Bolt starts out strong and deals out some grand comedy as he loses his hearing (you’ll have to see why). Victoria Hoffman is extremely funny as she fully embraces her character’s love for gossip as she starts the chain of rumors. Dee Dee Diemer commits to the eccentric comedy of Cookie with hilarious results.
Rumors was written in 1988 and it shows in the language, the wonderful set by Bill Wright and the period clothing by Marla Gonzales. The set fills the Barn and gives the actors lots of room to run around while looking fantastic. Gonzales costumes really set the tone of both the period and the individual characters.
The gossip about Rumors is true, it’s a fun evening in the classic Simon tradition of comedy. Rumors runs Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 and Sundays at 2pm through with one show on Monday June 12th at 7:30.
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