‘Rumors’ — a farce to be reckoned with
Oak Ridge High School drama opened its spring production “Rumors,” by playwright Neil Simon, Thursday night to a house that wasn’t quite packed, but nonetheless roaring with laughter for most of the performance.
Directed by Janet Henke and assisted by Ryan Van Overeem and Nick Lawson, “Rumors” is a classic farce from the author of “The Odd Couple,” “Biloxi Blues” and “Lost in Yonkers.” “Rumors” features some adult subject matter and expletives, so it earns a strong PG-13 rating from Henke.
The play opens with a couple, Cris and Ken Gorman (Alexandra Chavez and Zack Royal) having arrived at the 10th anniversary party of their friends, Charlie and Myra Block (who remain offstage characters throughout the play). They’ve just discovered their despondent and valium-drugged host (who happens to be the deputy mayor of New York City) nursing a bullet wound to his earlobe, his wife and all servants vanished from the home.
As the other guests — three other wealthy couples — arrive at the party, they begin to speculate what might have happened that left Charlie with a shredded ear and Myra nowhere in sight. Rumors of marital strife and suicide attempts are bounced back and forth between the other couples. Additional gossip later shifts to questioning the fidelity of couples both on and off stage.
Eventually the police show up and all the guests scramble to concoct a believable story that keeps Charlie’s assumed suicide attempt out of the spotlight. There’s dancing to “La Bamba,” a wife beating her husband senseless with a car phone and a few surprises that leave the house roaring with laughter.
Oak Ridge’s delivery of Neal Simon’s script is a near-perfect balance of dialogue, timing and physical comedy — no small feat for 10 actors sharing the same small stage.
Chavez shines as the nervous and befuddled Cris Gorman, stuttering and Freudian-slipping her way through several fabricated stories about the evening’s hijinks. Andrew Halverson and Firenze Rodriguez are charming and never miss a beat as aging couple Ernie and Cookie Cusack.
One of the show’s most hilarious scenes features Cookie, suffering from a back spasm, crawling like an infant across the floor to the kitchen. She causes an accident that burns her husband’s hand. He emerges, screaming obscenities and wearing an apron emblazoned with the monicker “Domestic Goddess.”
And Dylan Smith steals plenty of scenes as Lenny Ganz, nailing the character’s frantic mood swings and deadpan asides. Smith even managed to seamlessly play off a wardrobe malfunction that sent a bedroom slipper flying into the front row during Thursday’s premier.
Credit goes to Luke Rolls, Steve Brown and Samantha Madsen for designing and constructing an eye-catching, fully-functional set.
“Rumors” continues Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons through March 13. Visit oakridgedrama.org or call (916) 834-8884.