“Neil Simon towers like a Colossus over the American Theater,”states writer Lawrence Grobel. Best known for his light comedies, Simon has also written autobiographical plays, drama, romantic comedy, sophisticated comedy, tragi-comedy, fairy-tale romance, pastiche, and farce.
It is this last category that is displayed in Little Theatre of Virginia Beach’s latest offering, Simon’s Rumors, written in 1988.
Michael Dunavan as Len, Ricky D’Alonzo as Ken, and Catherine Gendell as Claire
Farce is defined as “a light, humorous play about ridiculous situations and events.” It is certainly that. The play opens on a married couple, Chris and Ken Gorman (Eileen P. Quintin and Ricky D’Alonzo). They are at the home of Charley, the Deputy Mayor of New York, who has shot himself just prior to the party honoring the 10th anniversary of his marriage to his wife, Myra, who has gone missing. As additional guests Claire (Catherine Gendell) and Len (Michael Dunavan) arrive, the Gormans at first try to keep what’s happening to themselves, but are forced to disclose certain facts to quell the spreading of various rumors about Charley and Myra. The guests also disagree about whether or not to contact the police, but two more guests, Ernie (Jim Mitchell) and Cookie (Carolyn Collings) come in and are in turn kept from the truth. After the last two guests, Glenn (Michael Scott) and Cassie (Shannon Hoover) come in, there are additional difficulties in the form of back spasms, temporary deafness, and a crystal dropped in the toilet. In the second act there are further complications, including the arrival of two unsummoned police officers (Jonathan Hite and Rona Hyman), as well as an unexpected development just before curtain.
Speaking of curtains, this production actually utilizes the Little Theatre of Virginia Beach’s curtain to conceal the set until the beginning of the play. Usually it is left open and the audience can see the entire set from the moment they enter the theater. Perhaps some consider it old fashioned, but it’s a fun touch to have the set revealed as the action begins. The set itself, designed by Nic Thornburg, is a great representation of the geometric style that was so popular in the 1980s. Utilizing charcoal, silver, white, and a dusty purple, it is a cool background for the characters to move against and around in their often frenetic ways. There are a couple of levels, which allow for more interesting stage pictures, and several doors leading offstage, because what’s a farce without doors to slam?
And there is door slamming, as well as running, leaping, tripping, falling, yelling, and all manner of frenzied motion. But none of it is unmotivated or unnecessary. Director Jeremiah Albers has done a great job blocking the actors to create visuals that always aid in storytelling as well as being pictorially interesting. He has also created a strong ensemble as all the actors work together to create the world of the play and do a good job. Particular compliments should be paid to Michael Dunavan for his energetic monologue in Act Two, as well as to Catherine Gendell for her comical characterization (and thoroughly consistent accent), and Ricky D’Alonzo for his unflagging vivacity.
Kay Burcher’s costume design and Andra del Rosario’s hair and makeup designs are as close to perfect as I have seen in quite a while. Not only do they depict late 1980s styles and formalwear designs very accurately (with the exception of Cookie’s fun dress, but that’s intentional), there is an attention to detail that is wonderful. All the production staff deserve praise for their work on this quality production. If modern farce with an eighties twist is what you’re after, LTVB’s Rumors will serve you nicely.
My only complaint is that I wish the La Bamba sequence had lasted longer. I love goofy dancing.
Secret, secret, I’ve got a secret. Rumors plays at Little Theatre of Virginia Beach through Sunday. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30. Reservations are strongly advised. For more information, or to make reservations, please visit .