There is funny ha-ha, clever funny, and situationally funny. Though many of the things we find hilarious in our lives generally fall into one of these categories, it is certainly quite the barrel of laughs when all three culminate in one place. “Rumors” by playwright Neil Simon and presented by Just Off Broadway in Baltimore manages to bring a very serious situation –with a cadre of eclectic (and probably neurotic) people—into a cleverly, interwoven performance that prances around a traumatic crisis with silly innuendo, outlandish fibbing and cheap jabs. It has several characters intricately involved in a farce revolving around a celebratory dinner party.
Just Off Broadway put together an exceptional cast of actors and a humorous show certainly worth seeing.
At the heart of this story is the ubiquitous “Charlie,” who never actually makes an appearance during the play, but whose failed attempt to shoot himself in the head only blows a hole in his earlobe and perpetuates a series of unbelievably nutty sequences.
The title of this play is “Rumors” for good reason. Perhaps everything that transpires began with rumors about extramarital affairs, and we learn this through the interactions of the characters that show up at Charlie’s house. Charlie is said to be the Deputy Mayor of New York and a conga line of socialite guests come to celebrate his 10-year anniversary with him. However, right from the gate, the discombobulation of said celebration becomes quite apparent.
The opening scene between Ken and Chris Gorman, a couple trying to come up with a cover story for why Charlie is indisposed, sets the whole calamitous folly into motion. Ken Gorman (played by Patrick Jay Golden) is Charlie’s paranoid lawyer who clumsily tries to keep the cover story going “to protect his client” – all the while fumbling in and out of scenes and roasting his wife, Chris (played by Erin Klarner), in the process. As Charlie’s guests stream in couple by couple, the story grows larger and more ridiculous with over-the-top excuses and tall tales that eventually are exposed in slapstick fashion.
Ultimately, I thought this play had several ingeniously funny moments –with a plethora of underhand comments, especially from Lenny Ganz (played by Tom Piccin). For me, Piccin stood out as the quirkiest of the bunch–with his facetiously dry demeanor. Patrick Golden as the manic lawyer had some lively moments, especially when he suffers fits of temporary deafness. Erin Klarner, as Ken’s wife, was just as kooky, but her panicky air was far more subtle. (I’m a sucker for a lady in a red dress.) The feuding couple Glenn and Cassie Cooper (played by John Dignam and Tina James) had some unsettling chemistry, to say the least. Jason Crawford Samios-Uy as “Ernie Cusack” had some awkwardly playful moments. I especially liked his telephone etiquette and elongated “Hello’s.”
Overall, this is a funny play – not hilarious, but entertaining. I think director Jacob Hale did a fine job piecing together this complex and capricious storyline. The costumes could have been a little more elegant for socialite status, with some exceptions. The sound and lighting was modest, though I found the timing of the abrupt gunshot quite comical –so thanks, Tym Thomas. Just Off Broadway put together an exceptional cast of actors and a humorous show certainly worth seeing.
Running time: Approximately 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
“Rumors” is showing now through May 19that the Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baltimore. For information and tickets, click here.