summerstage spreads the comedy around in ‘rumors’

Donna Daniels as Cookie Cusack and Jamie Ryan as Ernie Cusack in SummerStage’s “Rumors.”  Photo by George Katsekes

Donna Daniels as Cookie Cusack and Jamie Ryan as Ernie Cusack in SummerStage’s “Rumors.” Photo by George Katsekes

 
 

By Katherine Beeson

Published Aug. 26, 2019

SummerStage’s final show of the year is the Neil Simon comedy “Rumors.”  

It’s 1989.The Deputy Mayor of New York City, Charley Brock and his wife, Myra, are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary and have invited a number of couples over for dinner. As the show opens, the first couple to arrive, Chris and Ken Gorman, (Katie Lynne Krueger and Logan Milway) discover that Charley, upstairs in a bedroom, is incoherent from a gunshot wound to his ear lobe; Myra is nowhere to be found; and the servants have fled, leaving the fixings for dinner out in the kitchen. They are frantic, thinking it was a suicide attempt and worrying about a possible political scandal. As each new couple arrives, Chris and Ken vainly try to keep them in the dark as to what happened, but eventually all the guests are in the know – except they have no idea what really happened. Rumors of an affair within this rarified social circle have been running rampant for a while and speculations grow as to the identity of the two people involved. Was it Myra? Was it Charley? Could Myra have shot Charley? The gun is accidentally discharged, leaving one guest temporarily deaf and the guests scrambling to come up with a story that will satisfy the police who were summoned by the neighbors, all the while trying to protect the deputy mayor. 

So how does this serious situation become a comedy with just a dash of farce?  

Neil Simon was a master at writing characters whose responses border on the ridiculous without going over the edge. This clever cast took his words and created characters that totally believe in what they are doing and saying. Director Dustin J. Martin carefully crafted this ensemble comedy/farce with finesse. It works and it’s very funny. 

Everything in this show depends on delivery and pacing. It’s almost impossible to describe in a review how successful these actors were in doing just that. When Milway is totally exasperated and blurts out “Mother, father, cousin, wort, hip – NOTHING satisfies you people!” trust me when I say he satisfied the audience! Milway does a great job as the loyal lawyer who will do whatever he can to protect his client. 

A number of actors really stand out. Deanna Strasse, as Claire Ganz, is a level-headed society wife with a great comeback for every comment. Strasse is nosy, just slightly whiny and a total delight. She goes on and on about tennis club members who gossiped about the secret affair, pausing long enough to calmly explain a person’s identity to her husband each time she mentions someone new.  As her character gets a bit drunk later in the show, her reactions, lines and delivery just get better and better. She never goes over the top, which is why her performance is so good. 

Nicholas Callan Haubner steals the show as Lenny Ganz. Lenny comes in with painful whiplash after his new car was hit. “I can only look up. I hope tall people are coming to this party,” says Lenny. It doesn’t take long before Lenny must put his injury aside and try to avert disaster. Haubner is in fine form when -- in a perfect combination of helpfulness and almost total bewilderment -- he jumps in to describe the people Claire is mentioning as she retells her affair story to new arrivals: “He DOESN’T play tennis and only goes to the club to eat LUNCH and spread RUMORS!”  His piéce de rėsistance comes when he must impersonate the Deputy Mayor and explain to the police – in hilarious detail -- why neighbors heard gunshots. Haubner literally stopped the show and received applause when he finished Lenny’s convoluted story! 

Simon did write bits of dialogue that were rather tedious (necessary narration I suppose) and some side story farce situations that just weren’t funny (“Where are my earrings?” Everyone stops everything to search. “Oh, look, they’re here in my hand!”) Also, in some of the group panic scenes, actresses’ voices were occasionally too high-pitched to really understand, but all in all this show aged quite well and is a very clever and entertaining evening of theater.  

“Rumors” runs through Sept. 7. 

 SummerStage is located inside Lapham Peak

W329 North 846, Country Highway C in Delafield

Summerstageofdelafield.org

262-337-1560