GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Timing is everything in comedy, and Green Bay Community Theater’s cast for “Rumors” clicks virtually all the way through the dizzying Neil Simon comedy.
Dizzying? Yes. Even one of the characters says, “This is all too hard to follow. I need a bookmark in my head.”
Once the go-to plays for professional and amateur theater companies, Neil Simon titles have slipped to the sidelines. “Rumors” is a reminder of his sharp wit. This cast rises to the play’s pace like a thoroughbred horse on a frenzied gallop to the finish line.
One-line jokes and inane banter and weirdly comic situations – and rough language – and sight gags and spoofing and pun-making tumble like a crazed house of cards that is held together by this situation:
Charlie and his wife, Myra, are throwing a party in their fashionably art-minded home to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. When the first guests arrive, Charlie is upstairs nursing a bullet hole in an ear lobe, and Myra is nowhere to be found.
Eventually, 10 people tramp through the living room, doing things that caring friends do in a Neil Simon farce: Make up stories, tell lies, cover up for one another, assume identities, bop one another and eventually create a grand smoke screen for the cops, one of whom becomes mad as a hornet over the crock of lies.
The friends have little idea of what really happened with Charlie and Myra, but they let their imaginations run rampant in the wake of rumors they’ve heard about the couple.
Veteran director Craig Berken finesses his cast to get this rapid-fire mayhem and exaggerated acting to hum as an ensemble.
Bits among the littered landscape of joke-making:
+ Judd Gehl’s character sudden stricken with deafness (another gunshot) and prompting layers of confusion.
+ Lisa Reedy rattling off a quick synopsis of a contrived tale.
+ Nicole Hood opening a bag of pretzels that was an impossible act for Connor Heimerman. It’s an example of a perfect sight gag.
+ Martin Prevost, as a psychologist, ever knowing about the perfect way to handle a quandary becoming a perfect case of frazzled “losing it.”
+ Connor Heimerman has the prime bit at the climax. Ordered by to tell the truth by the miffed cop (Randy Vogels), he’s now a pretend Charlie delivering an amazing crock among all the crocks of fibs heard on the evening.
Opportunities abound for all the players to grab laughs, and they do.
This is an impressive ensemble performance, funny as all get out. The end is a pleasure, too. The brain finally gets to rest.
Running time: Two hours, 23 minutes
Remaining performances:4 p.m. Sept. 17; 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21, 22, 23; 4 p.m. Sept. 24, 25
Creative: Playwright – Neil Simon; director – Craig Berken; assistant director – Kathy Berken; stage manager – Charrey Honkanen; production manager – Lina Green; set construction – Jami Thompson; production manager – John Myers; light designer/sound designer – Kit Honkanen; set dresser – Patricia Grimm; prop master – Karen Konshak; costume designer – Tara Jackson; hair and make-up – Lou Knaus
Cast (in order of appearance)
Chris Gorman – Lisa Reedy
Ken Gorman – Judd Gehl
Claire Ganz – Madelyn Glosny
Ernie Cusack – Martin Prevost
Cookie Cusack – Nichole Hood
Glenn Cooper – Josiah Kaliq
Cassie Cooper – Jodi Angeli
Officer Welch – Randy Vogels
Officer Pudney – Lynn Lunney
NEXT: “These Shining Lives” by Melanie Marnich, Nov. 10-12, 16-20.
THE VENUE: Located at 122 N. Chestnut Ave. on Green Bay’s near west side, Green Bay Community Theater is one of the few community theaters that owns its performance space – and rehearsal space under the same roof. Stability is a big benefit. A landmark on Green Bay’s west side, the 193-seat Robert Lee Brault Playhouse features elements of an earlier time as a church, built in 1854 (the current backstage dressing room), 1895 (auditorium) and 1911 (today’s Community Room). The most obvious remnants are the church’s peaked side-wall windows with stained glass that is covered. High-up triangular windows still contain stained glass, and their patterns can be seen playing on sunny days when the troupe has matinees. The auditorium includes a 30 by 23-foot open-end stage with no stage curtain. The troupe has remodeled some portions of the building with medieval touches, but the seating area retains elements of a church. The theater includes wooden arches with decorative geometric designs on the ends and exposed beams in the sharply angled ceiling. The stage front consists of woodwork of repeated arches that looks to be repurposed wainscoting from other parts of the building. The troupe owns the building, which became its home in 1966. The Community Room serves as a gathering space for audiences prior to a performance and at intermission and for board and other internal meetings.