Charlie and Myra Brock might have trouble talking anybody into attending their next anniversary party.
Because the soiree intended to commemorate their 10th wedding anniversary, which plays out in Neil Simon’s Rumors, is a train wreck of flying bullets, lying guests and befuddled cops.
This manic farce from 1988, which opened Friday at Onstage in Bedford, is an unfettered romp. Almost all mentions of this work identify it as a farce rather than a comedy. That is an especially important distinction to make since most of us know Simon for pure comedies like The Odd Couple.
This script has plenty of the one-liners and comically exploding characters that populate the better-known realms of Simon’s output. But this one has a different feel and a different engine driving it at a reckless pace. Director David Wilson-Brown taps into that artfully and manages to keep both hands on the wheel while keeping his foot to the floorboard.
The action (and we do mean action) of Rumors plays out in the posh digs of Charlie Brock, the deputy mayor of New York, and his wife, Myra. They have invited friends over for their anniversary dinner, but when the first guests arrive, they find Charlie has attempted suicide (with fortunate ineptitude) in an upstairs bedroom.
As the other guests arrive, and Charlie’s lawyer Ken Gorman (Steven Morris) and his wife, Chris (Melanie Mason), try to keep the near-tragedy upstairs a secret, things begin to unravel with hilarious alacrity. Lies are told and revealed. Careers are threatened and scandals are averted. And the running and the shouting hardly ever stops.
So you get the idea of the overall tone of this show. And it works because of a game cast, as well as Wilson-Brown’s solid direction.
One of the better performances is turned in by Brian Prescott, as Lenny Ganz, one of the more pragmatic members of the party who comes closest to being the group’s voice of reason.
Prescott conveys his character’s exasperation well and is the only player to take a stab at a New York accent. His is an everyman sort of character, and he is nicely balanced by his brother, Michael Prescott, who plays the oddly stiff psychologist, Ernie Cusack. And William Kledas, as aspiring state Sen. Glenn Cooper, and Lindsay Hayward as his troublesome wife, Cassie, also have some outstanding moments.
The show is also enhanced by a handsome and serviceable set by Jim Scroggins.
The production is not without its minor flaws. Some of the casting is a bit off and a few of the performances could use some polish. But Wilson-Brown and his players have taken a little-appreciated Simon work and made a case for it.
Rumor has it that this show is a winner.