"Rumors" - by Neil Simon - Worcester County Light Opera Company (Worcester, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: The CAST of the Neil Simon farce, "RUMORS" presented by Worcester County Light Opera Company in Worcester, MA. through February 18, 2024. Photo Credit: Steve Caputo)



By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

You think I don’t notice everyone’s acting funny? Three people want to get me drinks. Chris wants me to hear this funny story. Lenny wants to get us all outside. Everyone’s creating a diversion. Why? I don't know. Do you?”                                               

                                                                                             ("Ernie") - Neil Simon   

Worcester Count Light Opera Company

Presents Neil Simon's Uproarious Comedy

"RUMORS"

Written by Neil Simon

Directed by Marianne Anderson 

Cast Includes: Kyle Collins as "Ken Gorman," Liza Goodman as "Chris Gorman," Norman Dubois as "Lenny Ganz," Lauren Weimer as "Claire Ganz," Michael Knight as "Ernie Cusack," Caitlin Lahey as "Cookie Cusack," Todd Vickstrom as "Glenn Cooper," Sonya Richards as "Cassie Cooper," Al Dano as "Officer Welch," Beetle Secor as "Officer Pudney" 

Additional Creative Team:

Producers - Lenny McGuire, David Gorham; Consultant to the Director - Linda Oroszko; Stage Manager - Ashton Lubin; Set Design and Build - Ed Savage; Lighting and Sound Designer - Vic Kruczynski; Properties - Robin Shropshire, Jo Ann Savage; Costume Designer - Andrea Davulis; Scenic Painter - Sally Bowditch; Hair and Make-up Consultant - Heather Hannon Rufo.

WORCESTER COUNTY LIGHT OPERA COMPANY, Grandview Ave. Playhouse, 21 Grandview Avenue, Worcester, MA.

Performances: 

February 9, 2024 through February 18, 2024

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)  

TICKETS: 

508-753-4383 or visit admin@wcloc.org

COVID 19 PROTOCOLS

Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

Worcester County Light Opera Company (WCLOChas staged the hysterical Neil Simon farce "RUMORS" and, from beginning to end, it is a non-stop whirlwind of hilarity. 

What begins as a celebratory event quickly turns into an evening of mass recriminations and self preservation for four couples.

The WCLOC cast grandly executes a story that only starts off as horrible but soon goes even further downhill from there.

"RUMORS" opened on Broadway in 1988 and ran for 535 performances and eight previews. 

The original production was directed by Gene Saks, and the original cast included icons such as Christine Baranski, Ken Howard, Joyce Van Patten, Ron Leibman and his wife, the remarkable Jessica Walter

Baranski would go on to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play while Joseph G. Aulisi was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design

The humor is smart and instantly fires off like a rocket (or a bullet) with witty retorts to fervent one-liners to hysterical responses executed (poor choice of wording, perhaps) lightning fast. 

When it gets to that point, as you find yourself laughing at one joke, you will probably miss the next joke because you will still be laughing once it strikes. 

And, by the way - ”strikes” is a good word choice to use in conjunction with "RUMORS" as there is an abundance of pratfalls and physical humor fully on display in the show. 

Under the concise direction of Marianne Anderson, this is a Neil Simon masterpiece of farce and the cast appears to be enjoying presenting the irrationality and ridiculousness of the entire plot. 

(Photo:  Liza Goodman as "Chris," Caitlin Lahey as "Cookie" and Lauren Weimer as "Claire" check their fingers in a scene from the Neil Simon farce, "RUMORS" presented by Worcester County Light Opera Company in Worcester, MA. through February 18, 2024. Photo Credit: Steve Caputo)

As the story unfolds…or unravels…it is May (it is not exactly specified as to what year but let’s go with mid-1980s) and we are inside a posh Victorian mansion located outside of New York City, specifically in Sneden’s Landing, New York.   

The (unseen) Deputy Mayor of New York, “Charlie Brock,” and his (equally unseen) wife, “Myra,” are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary and are holding a swank, elite gathering of close friends. 

At lights up, attorney Ken Gorman (Kyle Collins) and his wife, Chris (Liza Goodman) are the first of several couples due to arrive to the house and, as they arrive, they find the house practically deserted and, upon a closer check, they have quickly discovered that Charlie appears to have been mortally wounded. 

As Chris begins to call for help, specifically to a “Dr. Dudley” (remember that name, by the way, as it will come up again) Ken stops her as it seems Charlie is still alive. 

Collins is keenly adept at highlighting Ken's inability to try and control the immediate situation which soon devolves into chaos. 

Goodman as "Chris" proficiently takes whatever ridiculousness is thrown at her character and spits it right back out with even more humorous results.  

The next couple to enter is Lenny (Norman Dubois) and Claire Ganz (Lauren Weimer), also friends of the Brocks. 

Lenny and Claire have just been in a car accident and, worried he might have injured his neck, Lenny also calls the aforementioned “Dr. Dudley” (see?). 

The above actually all serves more as “prologue” for the show because as soon as Lenny and Claire arrive, this is when the "RUMORS" really start to fly. 

There is a slight "crassness' to the character of "Claire" and Weimer fully dominates in nearly every scene in which Claire appears. She is especially effective in those scenes in which she works off of the heightened energy coming from both Dubois' or Goodman's characters.

Dubois's "Lenny" is a character that has a high degree of difficulty as it is one that hits the stage from the outset like a freight train and rarely has a subdued moment. 

Not only has "Lenny" been assigned some of Simon's funniest lines in the story, he also executes much of the more arduous physical comedy and has a ten minute monologue at the end of the play. Dubois performs all of this quite admirably. 

(Photo: Sonya Richards as "Cassie" sits with Todd Vickstrom as "Glenn" in a scene from the Neil Simon farce, "RUMORS" presented by Worcester County Light Opera Company in Worcester, MA. through February 18, 2024. Photo Credit: Steve Caputo)

It isn’t long after the initial discovery of Charlie that people begin to try and cover up for both Charlie and Myra, and this leads to a blossoming effect where they begin to  invent lies to help conceal the truth of other lies. 

Confused? Good. It gets worse…or better…or at least funnier, depending on your point of view and ability to accept the preposterous nature of this farce.

Compared to Simon's other plays, "RUMORS" has a "remnant quality" harkening back to some of the vignettes Simon used to write for the legendary Sid Caesar and his iconic sketch comedy television series "Your Show of Shows." It has just been given a far more expanded premise which works brilliantly.

At the crux of the "RUMORS" are the suspicions shared that Charlie and Myra were each engaged in some sort of extramarital hanky-panky. 

The third couple to arrive is Ernie Cusack (Michael Knight), a psychologist, and his eccentric wife Cookie (Caitlin Lahey) - a cook. No...really. 

Although "eccentric" well describes "Cookie," it might just as easily apply to everyone currently under this Mayor's roof.   

At first, while the couple is kept in the dark on what has transpired before they arrived, as "Ernie" Knight is marvelous at trying to maintain some semblance of composure once he is let in the situation. 

Knight also shows however that, as a psychologist, Ernie will probably require receiving more therapy than he gives before this night is over.

Conversely, Lahey's "Cookie" totally embraces her character's quirkiness and, even with something as simple as word pronunciation, Lahey brings some of the most random but funniest moments of the night.

More mayhem ensues just before the arrival of the final couple invited to the party. 

Glenn Cooper (Todd Vickstrom) is a politician running for State Senate who enters this odd “house of pain” with his own pain which comes in the form of his argumentative wife, Cassie (Sonya Richards). 

Thanks to their expert performance partnership, the level of venomous exchanges between the Vickstrom and Richards characters is deliciously off the charts. 

How this couple has stayed together as long as they have is baffling. Their relationship could seem like a moment right out of "Vanderpump Rules(I assume, as I have never seen that show, only the commercials. No...really). 

(Photo: Beetle Secor as "Officer Pudney," Al Dano as "Officer Welch," Kyle Collins as "Ken Gorman," Todd Vickstrom as "Glenn Cooper," Sonya Richards (seated left) as "Cassie Cooper" and Liza Goodman (seated right) as "Chris Gorman" in a scene from the Neil Simon farce, "RUMORS" presented by Worcester County Light Opera Company in Worcester, MA. through February 18, 2024. Photo Credit: Steve Caputo)

For whatever reason, an effort is made to conceal and protect Charlie and Myra’s personal dilemma(s) from everybody else in the house. 

Yet, it soon becomes a gamesmanship of recriminations and, once the "blame game" begins, everybody suddenly pretends as if they only just arrived and know nothing while blaming everybody else for what transpired just before they arrived this evening.

By the way – for those seeking it, don’t bother looking for any “woke representation” here. There isn't any. 

All four of the married couples in this show are about as "Caucasian-elitist-upper-middle-class" as they come. 

It is hard to feel empathy for this pompous, self-serving, self-preserving, selfish bunch of wealthy miscreants...and yet, because they make us laugh so incredibly hard for two and a half hours, we do.

This all culminates in havoc that comes with mistaken identities, spectacular kitchen catastrophes, the plummeting of a "valuable" quartz crystal into a toilet, assorted stumbles, falls, door slams, gunshots, burns, rashes, sudden hearing loss...and, of course, bandages. 

Then, after a mysterious caller makes matters worse, the police subsequently show up to the party. 

As Officers Welch (Al Dano) and Pudney (Beetle Secor) begin to question everyone, the build up of lie upon lie begins to get the officers suspicious of what is going on at the party. Dano is especially good as the imposing figure of "Welch." 

The character of "Pudney" wasn't as well developed by Simon for the brief time appearing in the show, but the character is presented well by Secor who showcases Pudney's struggles with police attire, specifically an unruly cap and a portable radio set nearly half the size of the officer worn around a belt. 

(Photo: The CAST of the Neil Simon farce, "RUMORS" presented by Worcester County Light Opera Company in Worcester, MA. through February 18, 2024. Photo Credit: Steve Caputo)

Costumes and props used in the show are thoroughly in keeping with the mid-1980s time period and also for the elegant soiree that was supposed to have been had by everyone "Wang-Chunging" at this party tonight.

The set is gorgeous but the overall visceral staging suffers slightly as the staircase leading to the upper platform has been adjusted far shorter than needed in order to be visually effective on the WCLOC stage space.

Any above minor criticisms aside, "RUMORS" is truly one of Simon’s most sidesplitting of comedies. As lies are elicited to help cover up previous lies, the momentous build-up of intensity is a true farcical delight. 

As mentioned earlier, the turmoil also leads up to one of the most ingenious contemporary comedic monologues ever written. One final word of advice - Listen closely.

"RUMORS"  continues at Worcester County Light Opera Company until February 18th and the marvelous WCLOC cast proves that something can be so funny...that it hurts.

Up next at WCLOC is the daring musical "NINE" by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit, beginning April 26th, 2024. For more information or tickets, call # 508-753-4383 or visit admin@wcloc.org.

Approximately two hours, 30 minutes with one intermission

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 

@MetrmagReviews

@Theatre_Critics



ABOUT THE SHOW

In 1988, Neil Simon needed to cheer himself up. 

The solution was a farce in two acts, set in Palisades, that shows a dinner party gone topsy-turvy. 

In Neil Simon's murderous farce, "RUMORS," four couples arrive at the 10th anniversary celebration party for New York's deputy mayor and his wife, only to find the mayor wounded in bed and the wife missing.

"RUMORS" is one of Neil Simon's most celebrated comedies and is an enjoyable romp that has been staged countless times all over the country.

ABOUT WORCESTER COUNTY LIGHT OPERA COMPANY (WCLOC)

Founded in 1937, WCLOC is Worcester’s oldest active theater company. As a local, non-profit community theater, we depend on the generosity of our members, patrons, subscribers, and donors to help forward the mission of our organization to entertain, inform, and nurture local artists and audiences through the production of high quality, affordable musicals, plays, and children’s educational workshops. A donation to WCLOC allows us to continue to keep tickets affordable for local audiences, helps us maintain and make necessary improvements to our Clubhouse, and supports a full season of memorable theater and educational opportunities.

WORCESTER COUNTY LIGHT OPERA COMPANY
PO Box 51
Worcester, MA 01613
508-753-4383

admin@wcloc.org