by Toni Wilson Wood
For the 100th Season of Waterloo Community Playhouse and Black Hawk Children’s Theatre, there is a play for each decade represented. We are getting down to the end of the season so we are getting closer to the present–Rumors by Neil Simon is the play representing the 1980s. The show does a great job at conveying the decade in question–but I will get to that in a moment. What you really need to know is that this show is funny.
How funny is those show, you ask? This show was so ridiculously funny, I laughed so obnoxiously loud and almost did a spit take onto the lady seated in front of me during an unfortunately timed sip of water.
This farce is fast paced and packed with laughs. I can say from previous experience acting under Greg Holt’s direction that he works so hard with farce to make it funny–not by having the actors act funny, but by having them be deadly serious about what each character believes and is. This shines through in Rumors well. Each of the characters, while broad and ridiculous, obviously believe what they want is important even if it’s silly–and really, that is something that is so true in life. We all are serious about silly things, but those silly things are the only things to us when they are important to us. We can still see a little of ourselves in each of these characters–and laugh at them–and ourselves–in the process. There isn’t a lot of substance to this show–it doesn’t reveal a great truth about the nature of love, or about religion, or about human nature; no one is going to have their political beliefs questioned, changed or challenged in this show.
But that doesn’t really matter. Sometimes all you need is something funny–and Rumors is that.
The set (designed by Greg Holt) is absolutely stunning–it’s a very stylish version of what a wealthy YUPPIE in the 80s would have lived in. It’s probably my favorite set since Noises Off! And Cabaret.
The costumes (by S.K. Buie) and the sound (by Joe Kreassig) lovingly recall the 80s without making fun of it. The dresses on the younger ladies in the cast were particularly tubular, complete with an insane amount of sparkly rhinestones. I giggled uncontrollably when the lights went down to ‘She Drives me Crazy’ by the Fine Young Cannibals–it just made me really happy and set the tone of the play. The hair and make-up (by DuRaae Davis) was also rad.
As far as the cast goes, everyone was well cast and did an amazing job with the pace and energy of the show. Without giving away the details of the show too much, Rumors is about a the 10 year anniversary party for Charlie Brock, the deputy mayor of New York, and his wife, Myra, and how, as we discover when the first couple arrives to the party, that the kitchen staff has disappeared, Myra is nowhere to be found, and Charlie has shot himself in the head while in his bedroom taking valium. As more couples arrive, the first couple must keep everyone else from finding out what has happened in an effort to protect their own good names, and also to somehow spread more rumors around from their circle of friends. Later, when the police get involved for an unknown matter, the audience gets the good fortune of seeing how this strange bunch of people are going to get out of this mess.
Al Strain and Ana Hanisch play Ken and Chris Gorman, the first guests to arrive. Ken is Charlie’s lawyer. Strain is delightful as Ken as he attempts to keep everything together and under control, and is even funnier later when he temporarily loses one of his senses. Hanisch’s facial expressions had me dying.
Jens Petersen and Shauna Miller play Lenny and Claire Ganz, the second couple to arrive. Lenny is Charlie’s accountant. Petersen is perfection as he laments about the accident he was just in that ruined his new expensive car. He has one particular moment in the second act that shows Petersen’s range as an actor very well–one that received thunderous applause on Saturday evening when I saw the show. Miller plays Claire as smooth, dry and witty, and she complimented the differing levels of hysteria in the cast.
Joy Thorson and Henry Edsill play Cookie and Ernie Cusack, the third couple to arrive. Thorson is particularly a scream as Cookie, with her hypochondriac tendencies and her grandmother’s earrings. She really plays physical comedy with a kind of power that many might think women, let alone women of a certain age, might not be able to do. Thorson is a powerhouse. Edsill is a perfect compliment to her, with his psychoanalytical ways and his injuries. I hadn’t had the opportunity to see Edsill on stage, but I was glad I did and I hope to see more of him–he really has a lovely comic timing.
Cassie Yost and Cody Beckman play Cassie and Glenn Cooper, the fourth couple to arrive. They arrive quite late and argue for most of the show. Beckman has the suave good looks of an 80s heartthrob and shines as a politician running for the New York senate. Yost is a scream as his constantly angry wife, who thinks that he might be having an affair. She is particularly delightful when she is doing her stage business with the quartz crystal.
Jubal Stone And Robyn Cusmano play Officers Welch and Pudney, as they investigate what is going on at the Brock house. Stone is as delightfully verbose as Cusmano is stoic.
Rumors is not to be missed.