January 20, 2004 > Neil Simon's Rumors
Neil Simon's Rumors
by Christopher Cobb
Simon says: youth has comic potential. Simon says: entering adulthood is hilarious. And Simon says: middle-age tragedy is a riot. Simon - Neil Simon, that is - is absolutely right. And "Rumors" is proof.
Harking back to Restoration Comedy, the idea of rumors as potentially damaging torpedoes of society life is nothing new, only instead of a plague of the European aristocracy, this affliction concerns the likes of upper-middle class New Yorkers circa 1990.
Set the night of a ten-year anniversary party, a couple (Christina Angelos and Michael Farina) arrives to find their host with a bullet in his head (through his earlobe, thankfully) and their hostess missing. Struggling to make sense of the situation, we know it's going to get a lot worse before it gets any better.
As other guests arrive, the couple attempts to keep the secret, invariably blowing it, swearing everyone who walks through the front door to keep the secret as well. The humor of the first act relies mostly on who knows what when, who's going to find out what next, and how.
One of his lesser-known works, "Rumors" is a treat for the local community, where theater groups typically put on other plays in the Simon canon ("Noises Off" and "Brighton Beach Memoirs") to the point of delirium.
In order to keep the who's-who straight in a fairly convoluted plot, Director Lillian Bogovich, does the audience a service by casting various body types. In a cast where the male leads are named Ken, Len, and Glenn, this is a must.
Angelos' Chris Gorman successfully channels Carol Burnett for the part. Paula Chenoweth (incidentally also an owner of the company) plays Claire Ganz delightfully out of it, while Daniela Chestnut's Cookie Cooper makes great use of her voice and physicality. Sandy Sodos' Cassie Cooper, wife of career politician Glenn Cooper (Zachariah Robinson), is over the top, sometimes too much so.
In fact, this appears to be an issue with the cast in general. From the get-go, everyone's intensity is tuned to 11 (on a scale of 10). Obviously a sense of urgency is necessary with the situation, but a variation of levels throughout would have added some needed texture to the performance.
Act Two begins with everyone in on the secret, but the introduction of police causes the partygoers to cover their tracks with new tracks and, in typical Simon style, tracks over those.
The play culminates as Lenny Ganz (Mark Drumm), posing as the injured host, sets everything "straight" in a five-minute monologue, leaving the rest of the cast - and audience - floored.
While the tempo of the show was not quite in sync, it will obviously improve as performances continue. The actors each had an appropriate rhythm; the next step is to synchronize with each other. As this happens, the momentum of the show and the overall production will improve tremendously.
An infrequent Neil Simon production, "Rumors" should not be missed. Broadway West is to be commended for bringing this delightful comedy to our area.
Performances of "Rumors" continue through February 14 with 8 p.m. shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights; Sunday Matinees at 1 p.m. Admission is $20 general and $15 for seniors/students/Thursdays.
4000-B Bay Street, Fremont