The reason the wheels were so well-greased on Playcrafter’s Barn Theater’ production of Rumors for several reasons: a.) The characters weren’t particularly likable, b.) the actors playing the characters are likable, and c.) Their Comic Timing Was So Crisp!

Written by Neil Simon, and directed by Alex Richardson, Rumors is about hoity toity New Yorkers of the social class that can afford to enjoy the finer things, but are susceptible to bad behavior. As I got to know Ken, Len, Glenn, Ernie, Claire, Cookie, Cassie and Chris, I thought of Billy Joel’s “Big Shot.” Because these people all worry about their reputations. Non-stop. When they show up at their friends Charlie and Myra’s house, they find Charlie has a gunshot wound. And Myra’s gone. Charlie is the deputy mayor of New York. The guests are worried about scandal. Scandal for Charlie. Scandal for Myra. But most of all, scandal for themselves.

The premise seems like that of a suspense thriller, right out of The Fugitive. But the bullet pierced his earlobe. It not being a vital organ, Neil Simon goes for broke and writes it as a comedy. A straightforward farce.

There is a lot of falling down. There is a lot of wordplay. There are tons of mistaken identity, subterfuge, and cover up. Ken (Aaron Lord) and Chris (Sara-Linnea Laufer O’Neill) are the first couple on the scene. Both are lawyers. Both know that Charlie being found with a bullet wound in his ear and his wife nowhere to be found, on their 10th wedding anniversary, equals page six of the New York Post. So once they realize they can clean and bandage Charlie, and all the other guests will be none the wiser, maybe a scandal can be avoided entirely!

Len and Claire (Anthony Natarelli and Sydney Dexter) arrived next. They get an entirely different version of events. But some degree of truth is unavoidable.

Then Ernie and Cookie ( Nicholas Waldbusser and Ann Keeney-Grafft) arrive. And guess what, they also get told a bunch of lies. They get even less truthful information than Len and Claire.

By the time rising politician Glenn (Mike Kelly) and trophy wife Cassie (Krissy Wheeler) arrive, all they get told is that Charlie and Myra are watching a PBS documentary on Adolph Hitler in their bedroom.

Then they make Ernie the analyst serve as butler, and Cookie the cooking show host is made to cook. The help for Charlie and Myra is also gone. Appointing Ernie and Cookie suggests that they are to some extent looked down upon by their wealthy friends; the lowest of the high ladder rungs.

Again, there are more questions than answers for everybody. Part of the fun is watching how outlandish the answers that they come up with are.

I don’t want to spoil more than I have. But the fact that these wealthy New Yorkers can afford to belong to a tennis club, attend swanky charity events and buy new BMWs makes them just that much easier to laugh at when they have to squirm. In fact, I almost hoped to see them fail in their cover up! And with that, I’m going to stop myself from writing.

It felt more like comedy improv than a scripted comedy. That’s a compliment. Everyone onstage seemed to relish the chaos. The wisecracks sounded almost off the top of the actors’ heads.

Rumors may be the funniest play I see all year.

It will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday at 4950 35th Ave., Moline. See it!

 

Greg O'Neill is a Spanish teacher at Lewistown Community High School. A native of Rock Island, he currently resides between there and Lewistown. He has been onstage at Quad City Music Guild, Playcrafter's Barn Theatre, Richmond Hill Theatre, and Genesius Guild. He got his start at St. Joseph's Catholic Church when he appeared in Tales of Wonder at the age of eleven. He enjoys movies, theatre, books, baseball, and writing stories.