Mar 05, 2008 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
The Baldwinsville Theatre Guild pulls out all the stops in its ongoing production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors.”
There’s a large cast, a carefully crafted two-tiered set, elegant stage decorations and costumes and enough light and sound cues to keep the whole crew jumping. All those elements are in place as BTG presents perhaps the silliest script ever written by America’s premier comic playwright.
Overcoming all odds, director Jon Barden and his collaborative cast have staged a snappy, snazzy, funny farce.
Here’s the plot: Having received invitations to an anniversary party, four well-heeled couples arrive at the house of Charlie and Myra in Sneden’s Landing, NY. Charlie and Myra never appear. (Now guess which couple inspires most of the rumors.)
When the guests arrive they discover Charlie in a thoroughly unpresentable state and Myra missing. Charlie’s also missing an ear lobe, while the guests are in danger of missing dinner because the servants are missing.
You get the idea. It’s all about misunderstandings and miscommunication.
“Rumors” succeeds not because of its impossible situations but because of Simon’s flair for characterization. And that’s where the BTG actors step right up and shake the author’s hand.
Blair Dawson and Josh Taylor play Chris and Ken Gorman, a mellow blonde and her hyperkinetic husband.
Stephanie Boivin and Mark Baker portray Claire and Lenny Ganz, a hand-on-the-hip hussy and her fussy husband.
Denise Ballou and John LaCasse play Cookie and Ernest Cusack, she a TV chef and he a pipe-smoking psychoanalyst.
And Korrie Strodel and Jon Wright portray Cassie and Glenn Cooper, a hot-blooded, quartz-bedazzled wife and her cool-as-a-cucumber politician husband.
Most of the 10 actors have previous BTG experience and it shows. They feel comfortable on this stage and know what to expect from their colleagues.
There are no “lead” roles in “Rumors.” It’s a total ensemble piece, with each of the four couples carrying equal loads of dialogue.
A few memorable moments bring each performer into the spotlight, however, as when Boivin punctuates a punch line with her bare shoulder, or when Ballou’s character suffers a gut-wrenching body-spasm, or when LaCasse’s shrink blurts out an 82-word account of a kitchen accident.
Strodel turns on her curvaceous charms when Cassie tries to beat Glenn at his own cheating game. As Glenn, the state senate candidate, Wright nearly steals the show with an understated performance relying on warmth rather than wackiness.
Baker’s Lenny Ganz may hem and haw but he takes charge when necessary, and Baker creates a multi-dimensional character in a one-dimensional milieu.
Dawson drew laughs with several deadpan lines (i.e. “Actually we don’t talk that much”). As her easily excitable husband, Taylor complements Dawson’s quiet grace. Taylor’s machine-gun delivery threatened to shoot holes in the exposition, but in the second act after his character suffers temporary deafness, he displays deft timing. Whenever he responds to incorrectly heard information, the audience goes crazy.
The two police officers arrive toward the end of Act 2 like a low-rent deus ex machina. Jay Burris as Officer Welch observes, “We gotta lotta cartoon humor in this piece, don’t we?” His partner, played by Stephanie Long, certainly agrees, as do BTG audiences.
Producer Steve Borek should take note: This show proves that Simon and BTG are made for each other!
Nobody knows funny business like Neil Simon and nobody knows how to put on a comedy like B’ville’s good guilders. Broadway’s best-selling scribe and Central New York’s longest-extant theater troupe make for a winning combination. And that’s no rumor!
“Rumors” will continue at the Presbyterian Education Center, at 64 Oswego St., at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday March 7 and 8, at 3 p.m. Sunday March 9, and 7:30 p.m. March 14 and 15. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for students and $12 for seniors at the Sunday matinee only; 635-7382, or baldwinsvilletheatreguild.org.