Thursday, October 3, 2019

Cloverdale Playhouse: "Rumors"

Standing ovations are so routine that they have become meaningless gestures at almost every professional or amateur theatrical performance. -- How refreshing then to have a well-earned  rapturous "seated ovation" greet the company of actors at the curtain call of The Cloverdale Playhouse's hilarious rendition of Neil Simon's Rumors.

As its next to last production of the "2019 Ensemble Season", director Mike Winkelman and his near perfect 10-member acting ensemble deliver an impressively clear and outrageously funny concoction in sumptuous formal black-and-white costumes [Katie Pearson] on a "large, tastefully-appointed" multi-leveled interior set [J. Scott Grinstead], the home of the Deputy Mayor of New York and his wife who are hosting their friends at a dinner party to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

The problem is that their first guests -- Ken [Nathan Jacobs] and Chris [Sarah Kay] -- discover that Charlie has shot himself (a flesh wound), his wife Myra is nowhere to be found, there are no servants to prepare and serve the food, and they are left to explain the situation to the other guests when they arrive.

Enter Lenny [Ari Hagler] and Claire [Sara MacNeil], and later Ernie [Marcus Clement] and Cookie [Emily Burke], and finally Glenn [Chris Paulk] and Cassie [Alex Rickerd], who variously hear and re-tell with variations the several versions of what happened -- too much for any of them to remember accurately as so much is invented on the spot.

Of course, every couple has "issues", and so many "rumors" are spread around until pandemonium rears its ugly head. -- No spoilers here, so let it suffice that with everyone arguing and agreeing or disagreeing on the proper course of action in telling the police as well as finding out why Charlie shot himself and where Myra has gone, the result is a well-tuned farce by a troupe of consummate comic actors, abetted at the end by two police officers [Chris Roquemore and Brittany Riki Sankey].

The two hour running time goes by so quickly because of the fully engaged and energetic antics of the ensemble, each one with specific quirks and sophisticated dialogue; their individual performances are specific and nuanced, and their generosity to one another while fully participating in every action demonstrates an across-the-board professionalism that is the hallmark of this production.

Audience laughter from the opening night's almost full house threatened to drown out some dialogue, yet the on-stage ensemble kept the action moving at sometimes galloping speed. Mr. Simon's masterful script has so many comical twists and turns, with plot surprises that stretch credibility, but are so good-natured that they are easily forgiven.

With the world around us causing so much division, what a relief it is to witness a masterfully written, directed, designed, and acted farce so deserving of its resounding "seated ovation.