‘Rumors’ moves right along
In addition to a director, you need a traffic cop for this show to keep a handle on all the comings and goings. With a cast of 10 and no less than five different doors and entryways, Neil Simon’s 1988 farce “Rumors” is as much about movement as it is dialogue, and the Lake Dillon Theatre Company proves it’s up to the task when the show opens this weekend.Directed by Gary Ketzenbarger, “Rumors” is the extraordinarily silly tale of a quartet of affluent New York couples who arrive at their friends’ home for an anniversary party only to find that the wife, Myra, is missing and the husband, Charlie Brock, has somehow contrived to shoot himself in the earlobe. The first couple to arrive, Ken and Chris (Jim Brennan and Kelly Renoux), set the farcical gears in motion when they decide it would be best to lie about Charlie and Myra than tell anyone what’s really going on.
After all, Ken reasons, Charlie is the deputy mayor of New York – what would the press say if they found out he’d shot himself? (If that is, indeed, what happened.)Next to arrive are Lenny (Chris Alleman) and Claire (Kelly Ketzenbarger), quintessentially acerbic New Yorkers who quickly dismantle the subterfuge concocted by Ken and Chris and join in the façade themselves as more guests arrive. (The later you arrive, it turns out, the less you know.) More or less happy to be clueless is Cookie, played with delightful dippiness by Monica Angwin. Her husband, Ernie (Bob Davis) is a shrink who attempts to serve as conciliator among the couples, but fails miserably.
Last to arrive is the aspiring state senator Glenn Cooper (Matt Renoux) and his crystal-clutching, fiercely jealous wife Cassie (Juliana Black). These two are more interested in sparring with each other than solving any mysteries, and it’s not altogether clear why these characters exist, although they are played with lockhorn bravado by Matt Renoux and Black.”Rumors” is first and foremost a farce, which means audience members are well advised to check their sense of plausibility at the door. Lies run rampant, rumors abound, doors slam and tempers remain at “flare” level throughout, making this an extremely busy, noisy piece of theater.
In the confined space of the Lake Dillon Theatre, some of the characters’ bellowing is enough to have one diving under the seat – or perhaps borrowing one of the many head towels employed by the characters for reasons ranging from exploding shaving cream cans and manhole covers to errant revolver shots.Volume excess aside, Gary Ketzenbarger has assembled a highly competent cadre of local actors to make “Rumors” fly. One of the challenges of a show like this is ensuring the cast continues to maintain the bonds (in this case marital) they have with one another, and all the couples are believable even as they engage in preposterous behavior. Most convincing as a sarcastic New Yorker is Kelly Ketzenbarger as Claire, who has a lot of great lines she delivers with delectably naughty zing.
The role of Chris is a tricky one that requires Kelly Renoux to meld her character’s true innocence with the heart of a conspirator, and she pulls it off quite well while Brennan, as her husband, struggles a bit more with his part. Ken is the lawyer who thinks he can keep it all together but who, by the second act, is reduced to bumbling around with a towel on his head misinterpreting everything people say. It’s tough to pull off slapstick without the gift of a physical comedian, although it’s probably safe to say the otherwise capable Brennan will warm to the role as audiences help things along with laughter.
The arrival of the police toward the end of the play sets up the big monologue by Lenny, who poses as Charlie and fabricates, on the fly, a ridiculous tale that somehow serves as a deus ex machina to shoo away the cops, promote love and harmony amongst all the guests and prompt the appearance of the guests of honor (although we never do see Charlie and Myra). Alleman does a commendable job getting all this across, and it’s a relief to all when the cop Welch (Michael Martorano) says he buys it simply because he wants to go home. (His sidekick, Pudney, is played by Debbie Swartz.)”Rumors” is staged on a wonderful, two-level set designed by Robert Swartz. It’s a great thing to have for a show like this, although it does occasionally result in some awkward blocking as the actors turn from the audience to address those above. Even so, the set, costumes, lighting design and props are a cut above, and point to Lake Dillon’s growing maturity as a theater organization. “Rumors” is, for the most part, a treat, and best of all it’s theater in a small, intimate setting where you can’t help but be caught up in the fun.
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