Prepare yourself for belly laughs with Rockaway Theatre Company’s production of Neil Simon’s hilarious farce “Rumors,” directed by Peggy Press and Michael Wotypka.
Press had actually preformed in a production of “Rumors” 16 years ago and had wanted to direct the show ever since, so she thought it was a prefect piece for the company’s 20th season.
“I love Neil Simon and I love farce,” said Press. “This is our 20th-anniversary season and I wanted to hear people laugh non stop.”
And she got her wish at the show’s opening last weekend.
“The opening was fabulous,” she said. “Everyone laughed ‘til they cried.”
Not many plays are co-directed, but Press said that she and Michael Wotypka work well together to create the best possible production.
“I am very visual,” she said. “And Mike can close his eyes, listen to the lines being said, and knows when they are delivered properly or not.”
The plot of “Rumors” revolves around an ill-fated dinner party, thrown by Charlie Brock, a deputy mayor of New York, and his wife Myra, to celebrate their 10th anniversary. But when the main characters, Ken Gorman and his wife Chris arrive, they discover the kitchen staff gone — along with Myra — and Charlie apparently dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
Tragedy slides into farce when Ken (played by Frank Freeman) realizes that Charlie only managed to shoot himself in the earlobe as he passed out from taking too much Valium.
Chris (Jodee Timpone) decides to call Charlie’s physician and the phone call ends as the doorbell rings to find Lenny Ganz (John Panepinto) and wife Claire (Lynda Browning) — also friends of the Brocks — who have just been in a car accident nearby. Concerned about whiplash, Lenny also calls his own physician, who happens to be the same one as Charlie’s.
With Claire being an inveterate gossip, rumors being making the rounds that either Myra or Charlie are having an affair, leading to a debate as to whether to call the police about the shooting incident.
As the evening wears on, more colorful guests arrive, such as the Ernie Cusack (Matt Hunt), a psychiatrist and his wife Cookie (Danielle Fisher), who has her own cooking show. The Gormans and Ganzes try to keep the pipe-smoking shrink and his wife in the dark about the Brocks’ awkward situation, until Ken’s bumbling leads to a gunshot which leaves him deafened and the Cusacks suspicious.
This confused cohort is then joined by political striver Glenn Cooper (Taylor Pedane) and wife Cassie (Mia Melchiorri). Glenn is running for state Senate, concerned about his reputation and thinks his wife may be having an affair. Meanwhile, Cassie is obsessed with her husband’s relationships with other women, leading them to bicker constantly.
All that unfolds just in Act I — and that’s before the police show up.
Press was particularly pleased with her casting for the show.
Local theatre groups often tend to cast the same old hands over and over again in their shows, but Rockaway Theatre Company makes a point of holding auditions to draw outside talent, and Press said the regular infusions of new blood energizes the whole cast.
“Taylor Pedane is new to the RTC stage,” she said, “and we are thrilled with his performance and the passion he brings to rehearsals.”
But the company also draws from a deep bench of talent cultivated through its own in-house acting workshops, Press said.
“Mia Melchiorri is only 17, but has been a part of our young people’s workshop since she was 7,” Press said. “After her stellar performance as Lina Lamont in our teen production of ‘Singing in the Rain’ in February, she was our best choice for Cassie Cooper. She has the gift of comic timing. Jodee Timpone and Frank Freeman, have played husband and wife before and have great chemistry on stage. Matt Hunter, gave a great audition and we took a chance on Danielle Fisher, as this is her first principal role. We know Danielle as she has performed ensemble roles in musicals and does scene and set designs. She is an extraordinary artist. Her audition was well-prepared and made us laugh.”
It was Browning’s character, Claire Ganz, who Press portrayed earlier in her own career, and the director was pleased to find an actor who perfectly matched the part, which Press describes as a quick-witted sarcastic woman.
“I was lucky enough to cast Lynda Browning, who is just that. Good timing and great delivery,” said Press. “We have worked with John Panepinto and Lynda Browning before, and knew their comic timing would work.”
If you go
Rumors by Neil Simon
Where: The Post Theatre, Building T4, Fort Tilden/Rockaway, NY
When: Show Dates: May 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28
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