REVIEW: ‘Rumors’ Delivers Farce at its Finest

It is a new year, but it’s business as usual for Oakland University’s Department of Music, Theatre and Dance as they open the semester with another high-caliber production: Neil Simon’s farce, Rumors.

Set during the mid-1980s, the play begins in a state of panic. It is the eve of the 10th anniversary celebration for the Deputy Mayor of New York Charlie Brock and his wife Myra. Problem is, Charlie has been shot (just a flesh wound) and Myra is missing. Guests Chris (Kayla Pingerelli) and her husband Ken Gorman (Andrew Barikmo) are desperately trying to figure out how to salvage the evening and their sanity before the rest of the guests arrive. Which of course means the evening can only go in one direction: hilariously wrong. Before this play opened on Broadway in 1988, Neil Simon told The New York Times the key to a good farce are doors and lots of them. In OU’s production there are six doors and they are all put to good use as the characters weave in and out in a well-timed rotation of arrivals, departures, and near misses.

What rumor is Claire (Lily Talevski) telling Ken (Andrew Barikmo) now?
Photo credit: JLBoone Photography

Joining Chris and Ken for this madcap evening are Claire (played to perfection by Lily Talevski) and Lenny Ganz (Brian Baylor) who get into a car accident on the way to the house. Claire is the quintessential 80s society wife who loves talking about others at their club and who wore what to which charity. Her husband Lenny is an accountant and is likeable and grumpy at the same time. Cookie (Marissa Pattullo) and Ernie Cusack (Michael Lison) add color to the cast as an eccentric cook and psychologist, respectively. Rounding out the menagerie of misfits are Cassie (Grace Rosen), an insecure trophy wife and Glenn Cooper (Gabriel Jamison), who is self-absorbed in his state senate campaign. You remember everything you loved about the 80s? The excess, shallowness, and weird fads. This play has it all, which makes it great fun to watch.

Director Anthony Guest does an excellent job of cleverly choreographing the pandemonium so that the viewer is constantly engaged. As I mentioned in a previous review, when staged in the round, the actors must be on point because there’s no room to hide. And especially in a farce where everything hinges on timing. Each actor brought his and her A-game during the performance. Every time a bell rings—door or telephone—the characters are sent into a Pavlov-induced panic with sidesplitting results. And hat’s off to whomever decided to keep set and props in neutral tones, as it did a wonderful job of allowing the characters’ colorful eccentricities to shine through.

Of course, as the evening continues to spiral out of control the characters become more and more emotionally spent, that’s when officers Welch (Jordan Taylor) and Pudney (Brandon Wright) usher in the classic device of outsiders invading the main characters carefully crafted delusion. Will the truth finally be revealed or will someone just crack under the pressure? Let’s just say in a farce, it’s a good rule of thumb to always keep your eye on the door.

Rumors runs a little over two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

Remaining performances at the Varner Studio Theatre are:

Sunday, February 5 – 2 p.m.

Thursday, February 9 – 8 p.m.

Friday, February 10 – 10 a.m.

Friday, February 10 – 8 p.m.

Saturday, February 11 –  8 p.m.

Sunday. February 12 – 2 p.m.

Performances on Sunday, February 5 and Saturday, February 11 will be shadow-signed for Deaf and hard of hearing patrons by Synergy on Stage.

Tickets are $15 general, $8 students and they can be purchased online without service fees at StarTickets.com or by phone at (800) 585-3737. Tickets can also be purchased at the Varner Box Office on Oakland University’s campus.

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About Sarah Hovis

Word manipulator, arts appreciator, sports spectator, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

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