Rumors: Simple Plot with Skillful Cast

By
May 6, 2004

I have never lived in New York, but given the way New Yorkers
often portray themselves as whiny, self-obsessed elitists, I’m not
sure I want to. Rumors, the latest and final Dramatic Arts Dept.
play, is a Neil Simon farce written in such a vein, the droll
exploits of rich people and their problems. The characters judge
and gossip over bad dresses and bad taste, seeming to avoid
meaningful conversations like the plague.

In the play, Charlie, Deputy Mayor, and Myra Brock are having a
party to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. However, as the
guests arrive, they find Myra gone, and Charlie bleeding from a
gunshot to the earlobe. Further, the help has vanished, leaving the
guests to figure out what happened and how to fix it for
themselves. But given that all at the party are wealthy people with
important reputations, the latter part of that dilemma and how to
fix it never really comes up.

So, despite the fact that something has clearly gone very, very
wrong for their friends, the guests spend the evening lying,
scheming, and covering up foul play in order to save Charlie’s
political reputation and their own skins. They keep their friend
Charlie from medical help for fear of damaging rumors, and only
jump to go see him when promised the juicy details of what
happened.

Maybe there’s a comment somewhere in there about how money and
high society corrupt and complicate people’s lives. The play even
has a quick little moment where one of the characters questions
whether the wealthy life is as fulfilling as the simpler times when
they “were just starting out.”

And yes, there were the requisite mentions of analysts, tennis
clubs, and Yiddish phrases. It’s Woody Allen without the humility
of self-deprecation.

That said about the play, the acting was truly a joy to watch.
Played by an all-female cast, the actresses all carried the comedy
effortlessly, without stumbling or forcing the jokes. Each
performer managed to get across both personality and panic, so
thankfully, the audience was able to care about the motives behind
all the shrieking, cussing, and name-dropping of luxury cars.

Winifred Wallace, as Lenny Ganz, was a believably angry and
injured middle-aged male throughout the entire play. And very
funny. Her performance was energetic and seamless. Through the
character’s monologue of lies that almost ring sincere, she also
provided the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t emotional center of the
comedy.

As Claire Ganz, Sheree Pirie was hilarious. She seemed to
realize that the audience would have as much fun judging Claire, as
Claire had judging others, and so she played up the character’s
innocence-through-privilege with a mock na�ve stare, despite
her biting dead pan.

Rachel Wagstaff and Megan Tusler, in the roles of Glenn and
Cassie Cooper, bickered as the troubled married couple. There’s an
affair, hurt feelings, and smashed noses, but the actresses
successfully hid the drama of their situation behind comedy. The
tension between them was a nice subplot, and made knowing that Neil
Simon wrote the play as a catharsis after his third divorce, really
no surprise.

Yet, despite my own objections with the subject, Rumors is a
perfectly well acted farce. The plot is simple, but the characters
make it complicated.


Rumors: Simple Plot with Skillful Cast was published on May 6, 2004 in Arts & Entertainment

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