A slow buzz


By Neil Simon
Directed by Jerry Bradley
St. Bart's Players
109 E. 50th St. (on Park Ave.; 212/378-0248)
Non-union production (closes Feb. 27)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Rumors is a hilarious farce by the comedic master Neil Simon. It is a fast-paced, chaotic comedy. Unfortunately, St. Bart's Players' production was instead sluggish; yet the funniness and fun of the play managed to shine through regardless.

The plot of Rumors follows what was supposed to be a 10-year anniversary party. Ken and Chris Gorman arrive at their friends', Charley and Myra's, house to find Myra and the staff missing. Not only that, Charley is in his bedroom bleeding, having accidentally shot his left ear, perhaps to attempt suicide. What follows is a chaotic cover-up as they unsuccessfully attempt to hide the strange occurrences from their friends, three other couples. One by one the couples find out as a complex web of lies develops and then dissipates. By the second act, all the couples know and are relaxing just as two inquisitive policemen arrive and a whole new coverup operation commences.

Rumors is Neil Simon at his best. The play is full of unexpected twists, uproarious events, and many one-line zingers: a classic farce. Each wacky character is so bizarre and full of nuance the audience cannot help but laugh.

The production, directed by Jerry Bradley, was slow-paced and low in energy. Most of the lines were drawn-out (although they were all comprehensible and enunciated, which was good). In fact there were at least two references in the play about people talking too fast for comprehension, which made absolutely no sense given the slothful delivery of most of the lines. However, Bradley's staging was deliberate and spread out well.

The cast was a tight ensemble, and each cast member got many chances to shine because of the brilliant dialog. Maryjane L. Baer was particularly wry as Claire Ganz; she knew how to make the audience laugh. Additionally, Daniel Burke created a comical character in Ernie Cusack; he had vivid, emotive facial expressions.

Technically the show was functional -- the lights by Heather Brower, sets by Joseph J. Egan, sound design by Sara Even and costumes by Mira Goldberg worked to create the play's atmosphere.

Rumors is a wonderful play that received a funny, if slow-paced production.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh