Neil Simon’s Humor Unfolds Folly of Misunderstandings
by Patricia L. Morin
Neil Simon’s hilarious play “Rumors” has found its comedic niche with Coastal Rep’s talented ensemble.
In a world filled with adversity and fear, natural disasters and nuclear threats, swimming in a sea of hilarity offers the perfect holiday. Rumors is the funniest show I have seen in years.
As we enter, we snatch Halloween candies, sitting at a table in the cozy lounge, pretzels beckoning from a bowl. Coastal Rep offers wine and a special cocktail called “The Rumor Mill.” What a comfortable, intimate atmosphere.
Designer Doug McCurdy’s set, a star in itself, shines with vibrant white and blue walls and six brown doors. Modern white furniture and wooden steps to a second floor look inviting. Lovely abstract paintings adorn the walls—soon to be auctioned at a fund-raiser—very clever.
Five couples, each with unique careers and personalities, have been invited to celebrate a sixth couple’s 10th wedding anniversary. But everything changes when uptight Ken (Jaap Tuinman) and flighty Chris (Deborah Joves) discover that the host (unseen Charlie) has shot himself in the ear.
Charlie’s servant and his wife (unseen Myra) have vanished. Worse, nothing has been prepared for the elegant gown and tuxedo evening. Soon, uppity Lenny (John Mannion) and his wife gossipy Claire (Janelle Aguirre) get tangled up in hiding the gruesome incident.
What unravels from that point defies logic—a mixture of nonsense and farce. Each couple gossips ferociously about the next couple about to arrive, as they unfold the bloody ear incident to each couple.
Different types of rumors play out in each couple’s personalities. We witness pure gossip and purposeful misunderstanding. When word play passes from one to another at Claire’s tennis court, it’s a lot like the old game “telephone,” where each player makes changes to the story.
Director Emily York’s spirited cast deliver lines with spot on timing and pacing. The choreography holds our attention like a bright, moving target. York updates Neil Simon’s 80s play with this year’s new BMW model and Costumer Corlette Lotridge’s current dresses.
Logical Ernie (Mark Drumm) and his wife, kooky Cookie (Lisa Guevara) are deeply confused. Cookie cooks them food when her back spasms, forcing her to crawl into the kitchen—evoking a snide comment: “Well, that looks like fun.”
Neil Simon aptly captures the snickering snobbery of the elite. Rumors based on the lives of the rich and famous permeate shows like “Entertainment.” Political figures like secretive Glen (Scott Solomon), and his suspicious spoiled wife, Cassie (Hilary Oglesby) are rich fodder for cheap gossip magazines like “Star” and “Enquirer.”
In the play, we laugh at the exaggeration of their privileged personalities, but also witness the juicy gossip they openly share with each other. Yet, we understand why they hide important struggles from the cheap rag newspapers and us.
Through their calamity, and as the fun-filled craziness grows, the most important mystery still hovers: Why does Charlie have a bloody ear? Where is Myra?
Come see for yourself. Laugh like you haven’t in years, and leave feeling so much lighter than when you arrived.
“Rumors” by Neil Simon, directed by Emily York, at Coastal Repertory Theatre, Half Moon Bay, California. Info: CoastalRep.com – to February 26, 2023.
Cast: Janelle Aguirre, Kate Barron, Mark Drumm, Lisa Guevara, Deborah Joves, John Mannion, Hilary Oglesby, Aaron Seymour, Scott Solomon, and Jaap Tuinman.