‘Rumors’ at Providence Players of Fairfax

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Rumors is  Neil Simon’s first farce and The Providence Players of Fairfax wring every possible laugh out of it. The zingers fly everywhere, and Director Liz Mykietyn and her hilarious and hard-working cast make sure those funny one-liners land-and land they do. At the performance I attended, the audience was howling! So if you need a good laugh or several dozen-make your way to the James Lee Community Center.

Andra Whitt and Don Myers. Photo by Chip Gertzog.
Andra Whitt and Don Myers. Photo by Chip Gertzog.

Let me set it up as it’s described in the program: “One evening in 1990, at the home of Charley and Myra Brock, in Sneden’s Landing, New York, an upper middle class suburban community about forty-five minutes from Manhattan.”

We first see eight affluent guests who appear in formal wear for a 10th-anniversary party, only to discover that their hosts have been incapacitated by mysterious events involving gunshots and there are no servants, or finger food. How will these crazy and frustrated guests cope?

Chris Gorman (Charlene Sloan) is cigarette-free for 18 months, takes to smoking Q-Tips, scratching her arm pits (an outbreak of hives), drinking hard and retreating to a frequently referenced bathroom Husband Kenn Gorman (Patrick David) makes the most of a hearing loss by mis-hearing everything said to him. Ditsy Claire Ganz (Andra Whitt) and hubby Lenny Ganz (Don Myers) make a plausible couple as do Beth Hughes-Brown and Craig Geoffrion as Cookie and Ernie Cusack. It’s the bickering that cements our understanding of their bond (and there’s lots of it!).

Roxanne Waite and Zell Murphy as the Coopers have a great little tiff. Roxanne Waite’s sinuous siren is a welcome distraction from the characters’ efforts to make up sequential explanations of what has happened and to give themselves alternative names in anticipation of the police. The farcical format is enhanced by the proliferation of alliterative names, Glen, Len, and Ben. It’s all non-stop craziness, and this talented cast runs with, and it makes for a silly and enjoyable time.

Don Myers grabs the audience from the moment he enters the stage and starts getting laughs immediately as he announces that he has suffered whiplash in a collision that has mangled his new BMW. He’s miserable and definitely not in a party mood. And from there on he commands the stage and provides a lot of the best one-liners of the play.

Eric Jones (Officer Welch) and Lauren Sullivan (Officer Pudney) are hilarious as two cops who are as confused as the messed-up guests. Jones is especially amusing as the officer who catches on quickly to the evasions and bizarre explanations of his high-class suspects, and help sto bring a circuitious story to a dramatic conclusion.

Because their unseen host is a New York Deputy Mayor, the party guests are desperate to hush up what they believe is a scandal that involves their unseen host, who is either recovering from a self-inflicted suicide attempt or pretending to be so, offstage. And, as the title suggests- there’s lot of rumors flying about. It’s filled with lots of Abbott and Costello ‘Who’s on First‘ wordplay and lots of over-the-top gestures and glances.

John Coscia’s elaborate and beautiful two-level set demonstrates the award-winning desigb for which Providence Players of Fairfax are known for and win WATCH awards for. It’s a lovely living room and there are multiple doors through which exits and entrances are made, providing a dynamism that adds to the party ambiance.

Robbie Snow and Courtney Fonnesbeck’s costume design and Beth Harrison’s makeup and and Robbie Snow’s hair design take us back to the ‘Mad Men’ times and rapidly telegraph expectations of male and female behavior to the audience, as do the profuse smoking and drinking. Producer Chip Certzog’s effective lighting and Chip and Barbara Gertzog’s Sound Design is perfection. You could hear every word of this zany script clearly and you needed to to try to figure it all out.

The cast of 'Rumors' Photo by Chip Gertzog.
The cast of ‘Rumors’ Photo by Chip Gertzog.

Providence Players of Fairfax’s Rumors is a blast! Rumor has it that you will have a belly-laughed filled time in the theatre. And rumor has it that Mr. Simon would be beaming!

Running Time: A very quick 2 hours and .15 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

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Rumors plays through June 14, 2014 at the Providence Players of Fairfax performing at the James Lee Community Center Theater – 2855 Annandale Road, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, purchase tickets online, order by email at providenceplayerstickets@cox.net, or call and leave a message at (703) 425-6782.