BWW Review: RUMORS Often Lacks Laughter at the Central New York Playhouse
Central New York Playhouse is now presenting their production of Neil Simon's farce Rumors under the direction of Korrie Taylor. This theater company often excels with their comedic plays, but unfortunately only some of the cast delivered the laughs on the night I attended.
Neil Simon was inspired to write Rumors (his first full-length farce) when he was going through some difficult times. He decided to write an "elegant farce" featuring wealthier people dressed in evening wear as chaos and lies occur.
Charlie, a deputy mayor, and his wife are hosting their 10th anniversary party at their home. Chris Gorman (Blair Dawson) and Ken Gorman (Josh Taylor) are the first to arrive and they find Charlie shot in the earlobe (a failed suicide attempt). Charlie's wife is missing, the help is gone, there is unprepared food in the kitchen, and instead of taking Charlie to the hospital and notifying the police of the incident, Chris and Ken decide it is more important to protect Charlie's reputation. More guests soon arrive to the party so Chris and Ken attempt to keep what happened a secret, but that proves difficult. Crazy stories and lies grow out of control as this group of zany friends attempt to cover for Charlie.
There is plenty of shouting, character acting, perfectly timed entrances and exits, numerous doors for the eccentric characters to slam and hide behind (scenic design is by William Edward White), and so on. This farce may not be Simon's best one, but there are still plenty of meaty and hilarious lines that should have compelled the audience laugh with enjoyment. Instead many of these entertaining moments get lost due to poor line delivery.
That being said, there are a few cast members that made the most of their roles and delivered some positively memorable moments on stage.
Josh Taylor often excels in the comedic character roles and this performance was no exception. As Ken Gorman, Taylor proved why he is the top pick for a character role and delivered a consistent and energetic performance. Jack Sherman, as Lenny Ganz, brought the house down when he delivered his cover story to the police in the form of an over-the-top monologue; it's a standout moment in the production for sure. Chelsea Lembo dazzled as Cookie Cusack and not just because of costume designer Stephanie Long's perfectly chosen evening dress, hat, and shawl for her character. Talk about literally throwing yourself into a role, Lembo did that and then some as the eccentric, successful cook. Lembo often stole the spotlight with her detail-oriented performance. Lanny Freshman, portraying Ernie Cusack, had great comedic chemistry with Lembo. We don't meet Officer Welch until the end of the play, but when Jim Molloy Sr. showed up it was a relief to see somebody who could deliver the lines well. His performance was a highlight.
The rest of the cast had some good moments, but they didn't bring the laughs. Many of the performances appeared very forced and awkward. Also, a few cast members seemed to lack enunciation skills, which resulted in some potentially very amusing moments going to waste.
This production features some great artistic elements, including the effective scenic and lighting design by William Edward White, which features some visually pleasing elements from scenic artist Dana Thomas. Stephanie Long's costume choices captures the eccentric characters perfectly. Robert G. Searle's sound design proves effective as well.
The Central New York Playhouse's production of Rumors is an okay production, but unfortunately the lack of laugh-worthy moments overshadows the good.
Running time: Two hours and fifteen minutes with one fifteen-minute intermission.
Rumors runs through June 22, 2019 at the Central New York Playhouse located in Shoppingtown Mall in Dewitt, New York. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions at the Central New York Playhouse, click here or call 315-885-8960.