Review by Danny Gaisin
“Farce: Fr. n. Exaggerated comedy based on broadly humorous highly unlikely situations”. Webster’s New World Dictionary. Neil (no relation to Paul) Simon’s only attempt to create in this genre demonstrates his comprehension limits of the first word of the definition. The author of such megahits as ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’; The Odd Couple; “Promises, Promises”; and The Goodbye Girl plus myriad others somehow overdid his attempt with 1988’s RUMORS. Perhaps if he had read Feydeau’s late 19c. “Hotel Peccadillo”; he might have toned down his effort, resulting in something more aptly titled “Speculations” or “Allegations”.
Theatre Etobicoke’s director Alex Bodnar has employed the talents of seven major interpreters; two support cast and 3 never-seen key characters to bring an accurate version of the original to the stage. The scatology is intact and the cast selection physically reflects the specific roles each must undertake.
The detailed set; appropriate costumes; and especially the on-stage props provide an atmosphere of Middle-to-Upper Class America with described vehicles definitely six-figure ‘upper’s. Four couples arrive to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the two unseen characters. One’s just attempted suicide but only blows off his earlobe; the wife has just damaged the new sports-car that was to be his anniversary gift. The visible couples then attempt to cover up with each other that actual events and so, the convolutions begin. Simon enlists the three 3-” B” s *, as the renderings become more and more complex.
Bodnar emphasizes the overt comedic aspect with his players approaching the ‘ham’ line on numerous occasions. Fortunately, vocal projection and dialogue emphasis never suffer so the audience can easily follow the labyrinthic plot and interaction. Still a scorecard could occasionally help. Couple one are lawyers Ken & Chris. Steve MacKey and Kimberley Wells are the pivotal duo that overtly introduce the missing couple, plus establish the subsequent visitors. The Ganz’s- Claire & Lenny have demolished their brand-new BMW on the way over. She’s the piece’s gossip par excellance, he’s the host’s accountant. Both Nicole Bailey and Teddy Kellogg physically mirror their on-stage personas and each seem to possess innate timing and facial mobility.
Couple no. three are the Cusacks; Doctor Ernie & TV cooking show hostess ‘Cookie’. They are the oldest but certainly not the wisest. Randy Bridge is the only one who understates his portrayal while Helen Conway milks her role for every comedic opportunity. Her supposed back problem permits some almost pratfalls that continually glean audience guffaws.
The last attendees are a state Senate candidate and his sexy wife. Frank DeFrancesco is perfectly cast as a politician in the Hillary C. mode; while Maria Michelli can vamp with a precision that is flawless and even credible. Finally, there are the two cops that come to investigate; but to write exactly what – would be a spoiler.
RUMORS will not be to everyone’s taste, with some attendees leaving during intermission. But, the acting is more than acceptable; the direction is focused and well-paced; and even with an implausible plot; the storyline keeps the audience’s attention. RUMORS will be staged at Theatre Etobicoke at #1 Col. Samuel Smith Park Dr. until March 5th.
“Rumor’ has it that Theatre Etobicoke’s next presentation will be HOTBED HOTEL in June!
Update: – the theatre seats are new and comfy but still jiggle with gigglers. Some folks STILL don’t know to stop texting after the curtain comes up; and the admin. Gestapo don’t even permit still swallowing one’s noshes on re-entry!
* “B.B.B.” Bullshit Baffles Brains. Utilizing an accountant; lawyers and politician just underscores the bumper-sticker slogan.