Colonial Players’ production of Neil Simon’s Rumors is a hilarious farce of a play, a wonderful way to start their 70th season. First appearing on Broadway in 1988, this version, directed by Atticus Cooper Boidy, is also a lovely tribute to the playwright, who passed away on August 26.
Shannon Benil and Dann Alagna make a wonderfully comic couple as Chris and Ken, the first guests to arrive at Charley and Myra’s home for their anniversary party. Discovering Charley has been shot and Myra is nowhere to be found, they struggle to keep calm, and prevent the other guests from learning of the calamity. Benil generally keeps it together, while Alagna frantically races around, shouting and checking in on the unseen Charley. Benil’s phone conversation with a doctor is extremely funny, as Alagna tells her what to say so as not to arouse suspicions, while Benil gets flustered and mixes it up. Benil nervously babbles to the police (John Purnell and Stephanie Bernholz). Alagna gives a terrifically funny performance trying to speak while temporarily deaf, asking if a cat is in the room when the telephone rings, and mishearing everything everyone says.
Mary C. Rogers and Brian Binney shine as Claire and Lenny, the next couple to arrive. Binney is excellent at physical comedy; twisting his neck as though from a car accident, he struggles when bending over to put away his gift, and howls in pain when someone slaps him on the back. At the end of the play, he gives a brilliant performance impersonating Charley and explaining to the police what happened, leaping across the stage to re-enact the scene and shifting the others around the stage to help. It gets a rousing applause from the audience, and a toast from the others.
Amy E. Hayes and Glenn Singer are a hoot as Cookie and Ernie. Hayes gets many a laugh from her back spasms, which force her to lie flat on the sofa, or to walk around the stage on all fours. She particularly captures the silliness when she gets everyone else on the floor to look for her earrings, only to find them in her hands. Hayes and Singer play an affectionate couple, making kissy faces across the room and using pet names for each other. Singer is great at physical comedy as well, racing across the room after an accident in the kitchen and plunging his hands into an ice bowl.
Rosalie Daelemans and Kevin McConnell play Cassie and Glenn more soberly, as a feuding couple. Daelemans gets the anger going from the start, sniping at her husband and accusing him of cheating. She ignores the others at first, polishing her crystals, then crying when she accidentally flushes them down the toilet. She flirts with Ken, sitting on his lap, to his extreme confusion. McConnell’s emotion is more restrained but still forceful; he tries to drag Daelemans away after her flirtations. He does a great job with physical comedy too, covering his face with a hand while the police question him, and coyly refusing to give his name. When everything seems settled, he blurts out a crucial piece of information that gets the police even more interested.
John Purnell and Stephanie Bernholz play Officers Welch and Pudney as people to fear. Purnell projects authority, demanding answers while walking around the sofa where the others sit, refusing to leave “even if his whole family has to move in here.” He wags his finger at Alagna, who tries to appear lawyerly by refusing to answer. Bernholz has a comic moment when Binney has a drink with her as part of his re-enactment; Purnell pulls her away.
Chloe Kubit and Constance Robinson have done wonderful jobs as Set Decoration Designer and Properties Designer. The set looks like a fashionably modern living room, with small glass tables placed around the edges, holding among other items a record player, a telephone, liquor and glasses. A bearskin rug sits towards the theater entrance. In the center is a large white circular sofa, with sections that can be pulled out. In the middle of that is a glass coffee table. Offstage in several directions are doors to the bedrooms, kitchen, and bathroom.
Kirsti Dixon has created memorable outfits as Costume Director. The men all wear tuxes; Lenny’s final scene has him in an orange and black smoking jacket, and Ernie puts on an apron to help cook. Chris wears a short light purple dress with sparkly baubles on the sleeves. Claire has on a long black dress and carries a silver purse and compact. Cookie wears a long, puffy maroon dress and carries a cushion. Cassie has a tight red dress. The effect is of a glamorous dinner party.
As Lighting Designer, Shirley Panek uses lighting in inventive ways, making headlights appear on a wall to look like an approaching car, for instance. In another scene, when the police arrive the lights flash as on a police car. Bill Reinhardt adds to the effects as Sound Designer, throwing out sounds of the doorbell and telephone ringing, as well as a gunshot. There are also noises from a police dispatch and music from the record player. Both the lighting and the sound help bring a reality to the surroundings, which adds to the play’s silliness.
Atticus Cooper Boidy does an excellent job as Director, especially for his first time directing a Colonial Players show. The actors work incredibly well together, navigating the stage and each other easily and naturally. Their comic timing is spot on, and they enter and exit the stage perfectly. Simon’s witty dialogue sounds terrific coming from them. Everything comes together for an evening of laughter and comic theater. It’s the start of a wonderful season!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.