- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Spring is finally here, whatever the weather, and one of the signs of the season is the Twin Beach Players production of “Rumors.”
The troupe has a tradition of doing Neil Simon works in the spring, when audiences are in a comedic mood, said Sid Curl, the president of Twin Beach Players and the director of “Rumors.” While it’s not their first Simon comedy, it’s their first Simon farce, because it’s the only one the American playwright has ever written, Curl said.
A farce is set apart from other comedic plots by requiring an “absurd situation, beyond explanation,” that the characters must strive to figure out, Curl said. “That’s what you have here.”
The action begins when a New York City society couple arrives at an anniversary party — on time — and has to decide what to do when they find that nothing is prepared, the staff has fled, the hostess is missing and the incoherent host is bleeding upstairs.
If you would dial 911 merely because your friend has been shot, it’s because you’ve never traveled in such a refined circle. In the world these people inhabit, appearance is everything and nothing is deadlier than a scandal.
Chris Gorman (Amy Prieto) laments the couple’s faux pas of punctuality for landing them in this trouble, while her husband, Ken (James Weeks), muses about the décor.
Blood is “all over the room. I wonder why people decorate in white,” he complains, then he gets back to the important business of keeping everyone in the dark, including newly arriving guests.
There are limits to what social graces can conceal, especially when red shows so well on white dress shirts. But even after everyone has discerned that something is gravely amiss, festivities proceed. Putting up with a few inconveniences is preferable to any deviation from the script governing a 10th anniversary party.
But not everyone was invited to their collective delusion, and eventually reality intrudes in the form of the New York Police Department. Desperate to maintain the illusion, the guests fabricate an explanation on the fly.
Brianna Workcuff is amusing as overwrought trophy wife Cassie Cooper, who has mastered every mannerism that could help drive her politician husband, Glenn (Rick Thompson), out of his mind. Trying to hold the group together is therapist Ernie Cusack (Luke Woods), navigating the tricky situation of socializing with people who are also his patients. But no one could benefit from his professional attentions more than his wife, Cookie (Katrina Campbell), a neurotic but successful cooking show hostess. Rounding out the cast are Eva Miller as the comparatively level-headed Claire Ganz and Jeff Larsen as Lenny Ganz, a man obsessed with whether a new member of his private tennis club is truly worthy of the honor. Lindsay Roberts and Tyschka play the cops whose arrival brings everything to a head.
Besides the genre, the set is also a first for Twin Beach Players, Curl said. It’s the troupe’s largest ever, its two stories looming over the action. Curl said its size and complexity gave him “sleepless nights,” but stage manager Justyn Christofel, volunteer Dean Stokes and volunteer Richard Keefe Jr. “came in and saved it.”
Simplification was never an option because there’s no way to stage a Neil Simon play except to do it just the way he wrote it, Curl said.
“No matter which one you do, the set is a character in the play. There are 10 people in the play, but really there are 11 characters, [with] the set,” Curl explained.
Fortunately, the troupe’s new digs at the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Maryland in North Beach allow just enough room for a 17-foot set.
The venue affords other advantages as well, including the ability to see and hear the actors, something that had been challenging before Twin Beach Players found its permanent home.
“Last night, I admitted some of the direction I had done was superfluous. I came clean: ‘We don’t need it. We can see you guys,’” Curl said.
The Players had been “nomadic. Now we’re in a home. People know where we are. They don’t need to look for us. That has seemed to be a challenge to people, but this is where we are now,” Curl said.
The production takes the R-rated language in the script and tones it down to G. Despite the premise, there is no hint of violence on stage. While nothing is inappropriate for children, and slapstick humor will keep older kids engaged, the plot will probably go over the heads of those younger than 10, Curl said.