By Jordan Wright
I suppose you might say the conflict at the center of “Rumors,” the latest production from the Little Theatre of Alexandria, is an exercise in futility. An accountant, a pair of lawyers, a politician, a therapist and their respective wives are plotting, and struggling, to keep the secret that their best friend, and evening’s host, Charlie, who happens to be the deputy mayor of New York City, has shot himself on the evening of his 10th wedding anniversary.
To add to the confusion, his wife has taken a powder. First arrivals, Chris (Stephanie Chu Rudden) and Ken Gorman (Mike Rudden), make the initial discovery when they find Charlie, drugged up and incommunicado. Until they can figure out what has transpired, the duo makes outlandish excuses for Charlie’s dire condition and Myra’s disappearance to the new arrivals. It is at this point where the bar cart and its intoxicating gifts begin to play an increasingly influential role.
Can this ever-twisting, absurdly implausible lie of the missing host couple be sustainable? If you put your money on “no,” then you’d be spot on. When the playwright is Neil Simon, who has been nominated for more Tony and Oscar Awards than any other writer, the plot guarantees hilarity and convoluted mayhem will ensue.
As more country club cronies turn up bearing gifts and seeking explanations for their absent friends, the pace quickens. Claire (Jayne L. Victor) and Lenny Ganz (Mike Donahue) are deeply suspicious, as are the Cusacks (Peter Halverson and Janice Rivera) and the Coopers (Kirk Lambert and Roxanne Waite). When neighbors summon police, the couples must fabricate a mutually agreed upon story, and pronto. And did I mention gunshots?
Mike Donahue’s stellar performance as Lenny will put you in mind of Mel Brooks striding the stage delivering comic zingers in stentorian voice. The more he piles it on, the funnier it gets. Ditto for the marvelous Jayne Victor as Lenny’s wife, whose deadpan delivery and knife-sharp retorts are the perfect balance.
The farce is maddening, of course – but that’s just it. We know what’s going on, but the characters keep piling on topsy-turvy miscommunications till we’re rolling in the aisles.
Director Matthew Randall has wrangled this terrific cast into a fast-paced comedic wonder. Timing is everything, and this troupe nails it with tightly woven performances.
If you’re looking for the perfect entrée back to the sacred confines of the theater, then look no further than this terrific production.
Joe Dzikiewicz and Eileen Copas also appear as as Officer Welch and Officer Pudney, respectively.
“Rumors” is produced by Nick Friedlander and Jennifer Lyman, with sets by Charles Dragonette, lighting by Ken and Patti Crowley, sound by Alan Wray and costumes by Judy Whelihan.
Jordan Wright writes about food, spirits, travel, theatre and culture. Visit her website at www.whiskandquill.com or email her at Jordan@WhiskandQuill.com.