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Unanswered Questions
By Kathy Ceceri

Rumors

By Neil Simon, directed by Steve Fletcher

Curtain Call Theatre, through May 28

Ah, Mr. Simon. Some of my happiest moments have been spent watching comedies like Barefoot in the Park and The Sunshine Boys. So why doesn’t Rumors do it for me?

Curtain Call Theatre’s production of this 1988 Broadway hit, a sort of hybrid of farce and mystery about snooty suburban couples trying to cover up a shooting, is marked by a wonderful cast and fine directing. There are hilarious moments throughout—especially James DiSalvatore’s elaborate impromptu explanation to the world’s unlikeliest patrolwoman—as well as little bits of stage business that are just priceless (like Josh Mandel’s earplugs). But as a whole, the story, and especially the characters, just don’t live up to Neil Simon’s best.

Four couples, all friends of New York City Deputy Mayor Charlie Brock and his wife Myra, arrive for the Brocks’ 10th anniversary party to find Charlie bleeding and Myra gone. Ken Gorman (Mandel), the first to arrive, is Charlie’s lawyer and instructs his wife Chris (Maryhelen Lounello) to keep word of the mishap from the others. But Clair and Lenny Ganz (Carol Max and DiSalvatore) are preoccupied with problems of their own: Their brand-new Beemer was broadsided on the way over. Charlie’s shrink, Ernie Cusack (Michael Hayes) can be expected to keep his mouth shut, but his wife Cookie (Barbara Richards), a TV chef, cannot. And the Coopers, Glenn (Aaron Holbritter) and Cassie (Joanna Palladino), are too busy fighting to pay much attention to anything else. Each is quirky and well-played, but none is as nicely drawn as Felix and Oscar, or as interesting. And the premise—that trouble will ensue if word of this mess gets out—isn’t convincing enough to explain why the friends decide not to call the doctor or the cops in to help.

Rumors is full of questions that remain unanswered. Why did Charlie shoot himself? Where is Myra? What happened to the cook, and why is dinner sitting, unprepared, in the kitchen? To which I add some of my own: Why does the deputy mayor of New York live outside the city limits? Would a police officer really cross the Tappan Zee Bridge to investigate a car accident? And how come scenic designer Malachi Martin is so much better at run-down than high-class? Too much time to think in the middle of a farce is not a good thing. If Simon’s jokes had overshadowed the mystery a little more, Rumors would be a much better play. And Curtain Call’s many talents would get even more chance to shine.


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