BWW Review: RUMORS at The Belmont Theatre
GUEST REVIEWER-Jason Davis
Challenge accepted. Neil Simon's Rumors is a fast-paced witty farce requiring an ensemble cast with chemistry, timing, and talent. Add to this the obstacles created by a black box theatre with an unusual seating arrangement, and one begins to ask why a small community theatre would take such a risk. Yet, sometimes the risk pays off.
The story takes place in 1989 at the suburban New York City home of Charlie and Myra Brock where they are hosting a dinner party to celebrate their tenth anniversary. In true farce style, trouble starts stirring as soon as the lights come up. Ken Gorman (Mike McGuinness) and his wife Chris (Heather Strunk) are the first guest to arrive and find that Charlie has somehow managed to shoot himself, Myra is nowhere to be found, and all the kitchen staff have gone home. Further chaos ensues as characters join the dinner party and the quest to understand just what is going on.
While each cast member has remarkable moments and garners many laughs, it is Mike McGuiness and Gordon Einhorn whose portrayal of Ken and Lenny keep the show moving. Their comedic timing and witty dialogue seem infectious when interacting with the rest of the cast and helps to pull the audience through the occasional slow moment. While these two actors may set the pace, they by no means steal the show.
To pull off a show such as this, the entire cast must hold up their end of the deal. With varying degrees of success, the characters portrayed provided entertainment and professionalism beyond expectation. It was particularly enjoyable when the female actresses had opportunities to work together. The interactions between Heather Strunk and Sandy Shurina (who plays Claire Ganz) and how they approached their scenes, made me wish the script called for more of these two. Adding yet more confusion to the chaos and a bit of physical comedy were Mr. and Mrs. Cusack played by Rich Mehrenberg and Kristen Borgerson. Rounding out the major players, Mr. and Mrs. Cooper played by Konstantine James and Jessa Lynn Casner together work well and create a believable couple struggling with marital issues. While the connection between the couple is clear, the two seem out of place and never quite connect to the rest of the cast and characters. Perhaps this is by design or due to their late arrival to the party.
The faced-pace required for a show such as Rumors is hard to keep up and inevitably there are bound to be some parts that fall off tempo. For this production it was the beginning of both the first and second acts. In act one, as more guests joined the party, the energy grew and there began a wave of fantastic one liners, gags, and hilarity causing me to laugh out loud on more than one occasion. After intermission, it appeared again that the cast needed a few beats to find their groove. Before long the groove was found and the show ended in the way it was intended, a little odd and a lot of funny.
My initial concern that I would be staring at the back of the actors heads all night was quickly alleviated. Thanks to some creative staging by directors Greg and Chris Kosloskythe, the audience surrounding the stage on three sides never feels neglected and happily becomes a silent guest of the party.
Even with its opening night jitters and the occasional snafu, the Belmont Theatre was able to pull off a difficult production leaving the audience laughing. Rumors continue January 11-12 & 16-19. For tickets and information visit https://www.thebelmont.org/