Neil Simon’s “Rumors” is a wild and crazy comic free-for-all, and the well-chosen cast at the Cambria Center for the Arts has fun with it.
Director Judith Jesness introduces the play by explaining the difference between a comedy and a farce. A comedy centers on a likely situation, such as two mismatched men living together, as in “The Odd Couple,” while a farce is a situation beyond the likelihood that it could really happen.
“Rumors” is definitely a farce, like a comedy run amok. It was an opportunity for the playwright, known for his clever dialogue, to cram it all into one play. The characters’ fast-paced repartee is made up of quips that no one is really quick enough to come up with. They’re the things we wished we had said after it’s too late to say them.
“Rumors” is condensed Neil Simon — the craziness without the well-developed characters or the sentiment. The comedy is so nonstop that the audience sounds like a laugh track.
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I have seen this play several times before, and sometimes the pace and volume border on hysteria. This one is better because director Jesness has toned it down just enough to give the actors time to reveal their characters’ personalities. However, a sign at the front of the theater reserving the first few rows for the hearing impaired is irrelevant. Marie Jakovich is assistant director and Nancy Green is producer.
The elegant set, by Green and Art VanRhyn, is a modern upscale townhouse where Charlie and Myra are to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary with a party. But the room is empty until the guests begin to arrive, and we never see Charlie and Myra.
The frantic action races by and involves a possible suicide attempt, a missing maid, a wrecked brand new BMW, an uncooked dinner, whiplash, several rumored affairs, a quartz crystal, sudden deafness and a run for state senate. And in the second act the cops arrive.
The ensemble includes a top-notch cast of actors who have appeared in many other Central Coast productions. The dialogue reflects the couples’ upper crust lifestyle, with talk of servants, clubs and nonprofit benefits. They all have great comic timing, and make the clever dialogue sound almost normal.
Rick Auricchio plays Ken, who with his wife Chris are the first to arrive and discover the situation. Auricchio’s funniest moments come as he loses his hearing and gets to make a lot of corny deaf jokes. Cynthia Anthony is good as his wife, who seems to be the most grounded of the group and as the men become more and more crazed, asks, “Can you believe we actually married these men?”
Michael Shanley is a standout as Lenny, and he gets an ovation for his amazing monologue as he impersonates the missing host to tell the cops an unlikely story. Sharyn Young’s humor is dry as Claire, Lenny’s sarcastic and slightly uppity wife.
Steve Reilly plays Ernie, the psychiatrist, with a wiser-than- thou attitude that finally breaks down. Janice Peters is a kick in a more comic role as his fey wife, who has a cooking show and saves the dinner.
Angelo Procopio is Glenn, who is running for State Senate, a worried man harassed by a jealous wife — Cassie, played with bitchy goofiness by Marilyn Blake.
And then the cops show up. Timothy Linzey is good as the bewildered Officer Welch, and Blake Spiller is his backup, who translates unintelligible radio messages into orders.
This is a silly farce, peppered with comic dialogue, and if you want something with redeeming social value, don’t go. If you want to laugh out loud and shed your cares, do. The audience gave it an enthusiastic standing ovation.
The Cambria Center for the Arts, formerly the old grammar school, now houses the Allied Arts gallery in addition to the theater. During the run of this play, “Entanglement,” a fascinating and creative exhibition of fiber art, is on view in the gallery.