By Lois Sherlow
The Provincial Drama Festival opened in high spirits on Monday night with Off-Broadway Players’ second performance of their ambitious production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors” in front of a highly appreciative audience.
Neil Simon, author of over 30 plays (“Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple,” “The Sunshine Boys” among them) and as many movie scripts, is a craftsman in creating comedy out of real life and experience. “Rumors,” first performed in 1988, was his first shot at farce. He thought that having the four couples involved in the plot dressed in tuxedos and evening frock was “a nice counterpoint to the chaos that was happening.”
Guests at an anniversary party at the house of the deputy mayor of New York (who, like his wife Myra, is never seen) find themselves creating increasingly improbable fictions to account for two gunshots at the start of the play, which in fact caused a most minor injury.
The couples are all affluent socialites who attend an amazing array of fundraisers and mix in political circles. They all seem too ready to work at cover up stories, even though there is little fire beneath the smoke.
Ken and Chris Gorman (Harold Moore and Pamela Gill) are soon joined by Lenny and Cookie Ganz (Ian Locke and Erica Green). Concern for their indisposed host escalates throughout the play as everyone competes to maintain some kind of control, if only verbal, of the official story. Two more couples join in (Mike Payne and Toshon Dawe as the Cusaks and Craig Haley and Una Hill McMullen as the quarrelsome Coopers) to assist with the elegant escalation of tension and anarchy. The crowning glory is a gloriously unlikely spontaneous tale told on the fly by Locke’s character Lenny. Somebody says “we don’t need plausible’ and that’s what Lenny delivers with bravura.
Mark Bradbury has engaged his wonderful ensemble in disciplined high jinks and verbal pyrotechnics performed with great timing throughout. The company is very well served by a stylish, apparently spacious set designed by Sheldon Parsons with a neutral background, crimson furnishings, and suggestions of expensive modern art appropriate to the characters. Lighting and sound (Gregg Davis and Troy Turner) complemented the mood of the play.
The next offering is Avion players’ “West Moon” by Al Pittman.