Swamp Meadows’ Messy Rumors

 

Neil Simon is one of America’s most successful playwrights for a reason. He is skilled at crafting funny dialogue and memorable characters while reflecting our common humanity. That is why it is sad to report that Rumors, now being presented by Swamp Meadow Community Theatre, is one of Simon’s weaker efforts. The talented cast of actors tries their best, but are unable to overcome second-rate material.

Rumors is about four upper-class couples who gather for their friends’ anniversary party and are subjected to an endless series of mishaps. Chris and Ken Gorman (Amelia Votta, Mike Grandy) are the first to arrive at the home of Charlie and Myra. It turns out Charlie has shot himself in the head and Myra has vanished. Charlie isn’t dead, though. He only shot himself in the ear.

We meet Claire and Lenny Ganz (Nikki Boss and Andy Affleck), who have been in a car accident. As a result, Lenny has a severe case of whiplash.

Another couple are Cookie (Sharon Colefield) and Ernie Cusak (Rob LeBeau). Cookie is a hyper-neurotic host of a television cooking show. Ernie is a psychiatrist.

Glenn Cooper (Jake Eldred) is an aspiring state senator who has been cheating on Cassie (Becky Adams), who accidentally flushes an expensive crystal down the toilet.

Two intrepid police officers, Welch and Pudney, show up to investigate reports of gunshots. The couples are forced to concoct a plan to conceal what really happened to Charlie.

Affleck displays some excellent comic delivery and earns a lot of laughs, as does LeBeau, who becomes flummoxed at the absurdity of the situation. Adams also has some funny moments as Cassie, who gets back at her cheating husband by seducing the other men at the party.

Unfortunately, for every joke that hit, there were a dozen that fell flat. For example, Ken develops a hearing loss after firing a gun. This leads to several scenes where he misinterprets what people are saying to him. It becomes tiresome very quickly, as does the endless hysteria of the characters. There are lots of doors slamming and people falling onto floors and couches. What’s more, the story would have been resolved in 5 minutes if everyone hadn’t been required to act like a bunch of brainless imbeciles.

Farce is a hard thing to do well. It requires precise timing on the part of the acting ensemble to be a success. Everything felt just a bit awkward in this production, which is a shame.

Rumors runs through May 7. Swamp Meadow Community Theatre. Captain Isaac Paine Auditorium. 160 Foster Center Rd, Foster. swampmeadow.org. 888-493-7110.

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