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Theatre Time gets frantic with Neil Simon’s ‘Rumors’

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One isn’t surprised when one of the songs that make up the between-acts music in Theatre Time Production’s revival of Neil Simon’s “Rumors” is the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Between the duplicity, drunkenness, whiplash, gunshots, bloody noses, busted eardrums, back spasms and overall nuttiness, who wouldn’t want to be sedated?

The play opens during what should be a party in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Charlie, a deputy mayor of New York, and his wife, Myra. But Myra and their servants are AWOL, and Charlie (who we never see) seems to have shot himself.

The wound turns out to be superficial, but his friends react with varying levels of hysteria, anyway. Word of the shooting could be scandalous, and the friends, led by the blustery Ken Gorman, tie themselves into knots making up stories about why Charlie did this thing, and how they’re going to cover it up, especially if and when the cops come.

When the police finally do arrive in the persons of Detectives Welch (the skeptical Al Carbuto) and Pudney (a taciturn Dawn Pagliaro) ,the deception becomes so wild and improbable and topsy turvy that the cops actually believe it — for a minute.

A play as screwy as “Rumors” is a great showcase for actors to do their thing and this is certainly true in this production. The men, Tom Williams’ Ken and Kevin C. Vincent’s Len Ganz (he’s the one with the whiplash) stumble about like higher-class Ralph Kramdens, all bluster but no bite.

Their wives, Chris Gorman and Claire Ganz, played beautifully by Teresa Zugger and Lisa DiCarlo (Judy Vincent played her on Oct. 17. The reviewer’s sad she missed that!) aren’t quite as pliant as the typical Simonesque wives of such men — the play takes place in 1990, after all. These women are intelligent, have careers of their own, and push back, though gently, when they’re pushed around.

Suzanne Haehnel is Cookie Cusack (she’s the one with the back spasms), a sweet but vulgar woman who’s the only one to show up in tasteless threads, a 60-year-old peasanty thing that belonged to her grandmother, for goodness sakes. Her psychiatrist husband Ernie (Johnny Dee Damato) dotes on her and is the closest thing to the voice of sanity for the evening, even though he understands that logic has no place in this upscale chaos.

Marty Edelstein is appropriately smarmy as Glenn Cooper and his New Agey wife Cassie (a svelte and feline Loraine Navales) is the only one of the characters who comes across as truly, wonderfully, unapologetically mean, though you can’t blame her since she’s sure her husband’s cheating on her. We’re not too surprised when Cassie, offstage, busts his nose.

Kevin C. Vincent directs with panache, helped by Bill Haas’ lighting design. The only quibble this reviewer has is the set design, also done by Vincent. Rich folks, which these people are, simply wouldn’t tolerate such a living room as we see in the play, with orange walls and curtains that wouldn’t be out of place on Cookie Cusack. White paint, crystal wall sconces, a little crystal chandelier, Picasso and Chagall prints that could pass for originals on the walls, curtains that puddle elegantly on the floor, and brighter, colder lighting design would probably be better. Rich people’s houses must sparkle!

But Rumors is still a scream.

If You Go

Rumors, by Neil Simon

When: Oct. 23-25; Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday 5 p.m.

Where: First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, 15-43 149th St., Whitestone

Cost: $13-$15

Contact: 391-8697

Web site: theatretime.org

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