by Terrance Mc Arthur
The deputy mayor of New York City is bleeding in the upstairs bedroom. His wife and the kitchen staff are missing, the dinner is not prepared, and the guests for their tenth-anniversary party are sharing gossip and trying to cover over the facts in Rumors, a madcap farce by the late great Neil Simon, now playing in a Good Company Players’ production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater through May 7.This is the third GCP production of Rumors, and it flies through the night at warp speed, punctuated by manic laughter from the audience. After years of Pandemic Panic, when nothing was funny, this show is a great release for all that pent-up mirth yearning to breathe free. By the end of the evening, you will have laughed at possible attempted suicide, temporary deafness, back spasms, a police investigation, burnt hands, gunshots, a car crash, slammed fingers, and other unfunny events that become hilarious at the hands of a cast of sly fools. This show is hysterical, and GCP thinks it funny enough to present this non-musical on the Dinner Theater stage, which usually is a home for singing-and-dancing shows.
Eric Bako, as Ken Gorman, turns from slick lawyer to unhinged control freak as he tries to hide facts and manufacture cover stories. Going from the kindly Papa of last year’s I Remember Mama is quite a leap, which he manages nimbly. His accidental hearing problems compound the character’s confusion, and multiply the audience’s glee.
As Chris Gorman, a lawyer trying to handle her husband’s contradictory orders while she loses her cool, Valerie Munoz has a Cheri Oteri quality. She starts in one character arc, then has to make mental U-turns on a moment’s notice. It’s about as un-Nurse Ratched (a part she has played) as a performer can get.Gordon Moore, a veteran GCP scene-stealer, bounces when he isn’t wincing as Lenny Ganz, an accountant with whiplash. His tour-de-farce spinning of a tale that tries to explain the unusual events of the evening is a highlight of the show. Tracy Hostmyer, as Claire Ganz, has an icy elegance, like unto Christine Baranski (who actually played Chris in the Broadway production).
Elizabeth Fiester carries an earthy wispiness as Cookie Cusack, a gourmet chef with a bad back. The character’s explanation of her name is priceless. She crawls on all fours, wears yards of gauze bandages, and endears herself to the audience.Henry Montelongo is Ernie Cusack, a psychiatrist who constantly analyzes and counsels the other characters. His fatherly dispensing of mental assessments is usually unwanted and ignored by his fellow party guests.
Benjamin Geddert is swept-hair cool as Glenn Cooper, a candidate for a seat in Albany, whose political career could be put in jeopardy by being at this party. Glenn has a seamy side, and Geddert straddles the Jekyll/Hyde qualities with smoothness. As Cassie Cooper, Lori Hickey is the perfect wife until she explodes over infidelity and the strangeness of the evening.When the police arrive (somebody has to step in when the situation has spun out of control), Michelle Olson and Shari Wilcox take command. Olson, as Officer Welch, is all business, sorting out this, that, and the other. She knows there has to be answers to all her questions, but she doesn’t seem to get any. Wilcox, as Officer Pudney, blocks the door in an unobtrusive way and looks like she thinks these rich socialites are not her kind of people.
David Pierce’s sturdy set takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed knows how to do 1988-chic and how to make men in tuxes look good. Denise Graziani must use a stopwatch to get the comedy up to a feverish pace. If you’re looking for a cure for the Covid Blues, Rumors is the laugh-filled vaccine you should take—No hypodermics required.
The show plays at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon, in Fresno. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling the box office at (559) 266-9494.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.
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