There sure is a lot of excitement banging into action over at The Woodbrook Players this spring! Presenting the snappy wit of Neil Simon’s Rumors, The Woodbrook Players are in the know when it comes to gossip, stories, and wildly insane tall-tales! Directed by Ron Oaks, this zany madcap comedy puts the stitches in your side with situational humor you just have to see to believe!
Director and Set Designer Ron Oaks paints a pretty picture inside the home of Deputy Mayor Charles & Myra Brock in Sneding’s Landing, New York. While the play has the potential to feel dated, Oaks’ refined sense of color coordination gives the show’s aesthetic a more modernized flare to it without completely removing it from its original setting. The furnishings are tasteful, the doors crafted smartly into the wall to maintain the notion that farcical elements are coming, and the steps bend upward just enough to create the illusion of a second floor without the need of a full-length staircase.
Costume Designer Sherry Peck puts the pizzazz in this well-to-do socialite party gone haywire with her sartorial selections. The gowns are gorgeous, even if they are more cocktail dresses than gowns, and the little accents of style on the men— read: red and gold lamè cummerbunds and bowties— are to die for. Everyone looks smashing, particularly the sensually seductive couture reserved for Cassie Cooper, the late-comer to the party. Even the eccentric togs seen on Cookie Cusack fit the bill for this wild party.
Sound Designer Ron Zyna deserves a nod for all of the quirky and exceptionally well-timed sound effects that occur throughout the performance. With authenticity in everything from the intercom buzz to the toilet flush, and the exacting timing with things like cars rumbling up the gravely driveway and telephones ringing off the hook, Zyna’s soundscape adds that extra little punch of panache that the play needs to feel complete.
The performances are sturdy across the board. The show’s only issue seems to be in its overall pacing. The second act drags a fair bit in some of the exchanges, particularly ones that feel as if they are meant to be rapid-fire between two or more characters. With time, the pacing will hopefully tighten so that the full intent and extent of Neil Simon’s wildly humorous endeavor can be experienced.
Officers Welch (Scott Gielda) and Pudney (Jocelyn Taylor) make their way onto the scene late in the second act but are worth noting for their comic delivery, particularly the exasperative nature that resides within Gielda’s performance. Gielda also delivers a strong New York-ish sounding accent, which fits the bill for his muscle-man cop act.
Ernie Cusack (Ron Zyna) and Cookie Cusak (Sherry Peck) may sound like the perfect cookie-cutter couple, but they’re not without their quirks, particularly when it comes to physical comedy. Though Zyna is a little slow on the up-take at times, Peck’s impeccable delivery of her spastic back spasms keeps the audience chuckling when things start to fall into pandemonium at the party.
Cocky and arrogant, Glenn Cooper (Jon Scheffenacker) arrives with wife Cassie (HanaLyn Colvin) as the last couple to the party but their entrance isn’t any less grand because of it. Scheffenacker is smarmy, snarky, and all around the sleazy sort of politician you’d hope to avoid. He holds his own when engaging in arguments with Colvin’s character, as she’s a surefire pistol that will all but shoot the house down with her mouth. Delivering a ferocious and frigid femme fatale with a chip on her shoulder the size of Manhattan, Colvin lays into the character with gusto and makes her presence felt. Hysterically engaging, particularly when she goes to blows with Scheffenacker, Colvin marks herself as a bonafide scene-stealer.
Ken Gorman (Doug Storey) and wife Chris (Regina Rose) get to having at the shenanigans early on as they are the first couple to arrive and experience the dismay that the evening has in store for them. Storey takes a bit to warm to his character, but once his character experiences a real trauma, his commitment to this line of shtick is hysterical. Rose slides into the character as well, progressing Chris from a sweet and dotty— though equally sarcastic— woman of the evening into a twirling drunk that lets her nerves get the better of her. Both performers do a great job juggling the chaos and the in-and-out farcical moments of appearing and disappearing through the set’s numerous doors.
Gossip monger Claire Ganz (Jenn Mikulski) and her show-stealing husband Lenny (Robert S. Hitcho) are two lively characters that pack powerful punches of panache throughout the performance. Mikulski rivals Colvin in her melodramatics, though they’re experienced much earlier on in the production. Her comic timing is second only to that of Hitcho’s in the show and her bathroom-going antics with Regina Rose’s character are to die for. Hitcho runs away with the show from the moment he steps through the front door, committing fully to the rigid and immobile physicality of his whiplash. The scene-stealing moment of glory that Hitcho delivers with perfect energy is near the end of the show; this frantic and frenetic explosion of a story defies description as he all but upends the stage dashing to and fro whilst weaving his tale. An uproarious moment that captures the audience fully, Hitcho is an absolute hoot in that moment and wins a thunderous round of applause just for completing the scene!
A good night of laughs well intended and delivered, The Woodbrook Players has a little bit of fun for everyone. But I hear it’s only playing for two more weekends— and sadly, that’s no rumor! So get to the theatre quickly before this comic craziness vanishes from the stage!
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission
Rumors plays through May 14, 2016 at The Woodbrook Players in the Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church— 6200 N. Charles Street in Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available for purchase at the door, cash or check only.