Comedy done well: Neil Simon’s ‘Rumors’
Caelin Miltko | Thursday, April 23, 2015
Finals week is almost upon us. By this time next week, reading days will have just begun. The following weekend will inevitably be haunted by the oncoming stress of exams and move out.
The Student Players’ final production of the year, Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” is playing this weekend, and the cast wants to help you make the most of one of the last weekends of this academic year.
“It’s comedy done well. It’s ridiculously funny but also grounded and a nice way to alleviate stress from the end of the semester,” said director Megan Steron, a senior at St. Mary’s who also directed last year’s production of “Inherit the Wind.”
The play is the story of a dinner party gone horribly, horribly wrong. When Chris and Ken Gorman show up at their friends’ house for a fancy dinner party, they find Charley Brock, one of the hosts, in his bedroom with part of his ear shot off. His wife is mysteriously missing. As the other guests start to arrive, they try to hide this unfortunate state of affairs, organize the dinner party and locate Charley’s wife.
Adding to the confusion are the ridiculous antics of all the other characters. Cookie Cusack (played by Mary Patano) is particularly amusing. The stage directions called for her to be dressed in a “god-awful evening gown,” and whenever she is on scene, her character attempts to steal the show.
“She gets these back spasms intermittently throughout the show that just take control and steal the scene,” Patano said. “She kind of has to be the center of attention the whole time, and if she’s not, she’s gonna find something to get her in the center of attention.”
Of course, the confusion is all complicated by the threat of interference by law enforcement officials. Throughout the play, the dinner party guests try to avoid alerting the cops to the catastrophe that has happened, but in the final 10 minutes, police officers show up anyway.
“Basically, the show wouldn’t really have a conflict without us because the entire premise of the show is kind of what are we gonna do if the cops show up? We’re gonna be in so much trouble if people find out about this,” said Dani L’Heureux, who plays one of the police officers, alongside Tommy Clarke.
The show is staged in the Washington Hall Lab Theater, just as the early Student Players’ production “Almost, Maine” was. While this comes with some disadvantages (think staging and making sure every member of the audience can see what is happening at any given moment), it allows for more audience interaction. In staging a comedy, the role of the audience is especially key.
“It’s hard to stay funny for so long, and it’s hard to get people to laugh because really the only audience you have when you’re doing rehearsals is the director and other people in the cast,” said Cameron Hart, who plays Lenny Ganz. “They’ve all heard the same jokes, and so the only way to make them laugh is by delivering them differently. So to keep that up and keep the show funny in rehearsal is challenging.”
The introduction of the audience is what Steron said she looks forward to most about this weekend.
“The difference between comedy and drama, I think, is an even bigger element is missing right now than if it were a drama because there is so many moments built for laughs,” she said. “They get me and the stage manager laughing, but they don’t have the full audience that they’re going to have.”
Steron originally chose this play because she felt it was a good way to end both the semester and her career as a college director with the Student Players.
“I decided that I wanted to do ‘Rumors’ because I wanted to end on a lighter note. I’d been considering really dark, kind of twisted dramas, but I figured that it fit more with the end of the year,” she said. “I knew that we would be putting it up towards the very end of the semester, and I wanted to do something more upbeat and lighthearted.”
Simon’s farcical comedy may be the perfect distraction from the stressful times of the coming weeks. “Rumors” will play at the Washington Hall Lab Theatre Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the LaFun box office or at the door.