There was a time when not a community theater season could go by without at least one Neil Simon play on the schedule. Lately, though, I can’t recall seeing too many, so it’s almost nostalgic to watch the Players’ production of his farcical 1988 play, Rumors.
Interesting, too, to watch the comedy master at work in the farce form. This is not a play with any personal background to it, as many of his plays have (unless you count the experience of a disastrous dinner party, which any of us may have had, as a personal one). And of course Simon doesn’t care much about character development here, either. It’s enough to give each of his people a distinguishing characteristic or too, and then let the situations pile up.
The opening scene setup is that of a couple, Chris and Ken Gorman (Michelle Teyke and Wil Horton), coping with the absence of their host at his own 10th anniversary party. He’s upstairs (and never glimpsed), apparently recovering from a failed suicide attempt, and his wife and servants are missing. So the Gormans are trying to cope with the specter of scandal (the host happens to be the deputy mayor of New York City) at the same time they’re facing the arrival of more inquisitive guests. To tell the truth, or not? Well, there wouldn’t be much of a play if they told the truth, would there?
Val McDaniel, Laura Sommer Raines, Wil Horton and Michelle Teyke in Rumors.
So, inevitably, things get very tangled as Claire and Lenny (Donna DeFant and Matt McCord), Ernie and Cookie (Val McDaniel and Laura Sommer Raines) and Glenn and Cassie (Rafael Petlock and Crystal Schunk) gradually appear. The lies get bigger, the rumors of the play’s title (about the missing couple’s alleged affairs) fly, and, to make the whole thing even funnier, Simon gives virtually everyone onstage some physical affliction to deal with, from whiplash to a bad back to temporary deafness.
Director Pam Wiley has staged the action (on a convincing set of a successful couple’s suburban living room by Matt Nitsch) effectively, giving her actors clear input on how to time their laugh lines. DeFant, as the often sarcastic Claire, gets many of those, along with Teyke, who’s funniest as she takes to drink to deal with her panic. McCord has a field day as his frustrations mount, and Raines is frequently a hoot as the ditsy but hard-working Cookie. There’s some variation in skill and experience level among the actors in general, as you might expect, but there’s really not a weak link in the bunch, making Rumors an enjoyable outing.
It continues onstage through Feb. 27; call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.