EFR - Reviews of Rumors

Rumors

Tue 9th – Sat 13th August 2011

reviews

May Anderson

at 07:42 on 11th Aug 2011

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‘Rumors’ is a comedy that lacks one very important element - laughs. Whilst the production is entitled ‘A Farce’ the play often fails to achieve that frenetic tone that one would expect from a farcical play. Although that’s not to say that the ‘Rumors’ is unfunny through lack of trying: this student cast are clearly just out of their depth in Neil Simon's play. Moving at a relentless pace, the cast struggle to find a natural speech rhythm let alone the precise comedic timing needed to keep the audience laughing in this chaotic comedy of errors.

The premise of the play is surprisingly dark. The deputy mayor has tried to commit suicide just before a party in his honour and his best friend (and lawyer) arrives with his wife to discover him bleeding from a bullet wound through the ear and his own wife nowhere to be found. Comedy ensues when the affluent guests try to hide the events both from the police and each other in order to avoid a political scandal.

Whilst ‘Rumors’ might not be as funny as one might expect the cast give a valiant performance as a series of couples who stumble headlong into the action and are gradually initiated into the conspiracy. All the couples are convincing in their varying states of marital discord or harmony but Michelle Slivinski and Kyle Norfleet as Chris and Ken Gorman respectively deliver the stand-out performances of the production. Both showcase an amusing slapstick style but manage to maintain our sympathies as the situation gets more and more ludicrous. Phillip Vollman also gives a winning performance as the analyst who comes to dominate events: his particular brand of characterisation feeling right at home in this farce.

Whilst the costuming and set design of this play is faultless, other elements undermine this potentially hilarious play. I have feeling that the South Lakes High School cast will improve upon their last performance and find their rhythm eventually but for now ‘Rumors’ is a farce that just fails to hit the spot.

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Ramin Sabi

at 08:57 on 11th Aug 2011

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The first issue about this play that excites my English pedantry to fury is the lack of a second ‘u’ in the title. This can be forgivingly overlooked. The rest of the problems with this offering from the American High School Theatre Festival cannot.

Neil Simon’s play is billed as a farce. That it most certainly is. The scenario is a middle class party in which the host has attempted suicide and his wife disappeared just before the first guests arrive, who have to deal with the ramifications of this for the other guests, dealing with the power of rumour and the vacuous nature of yuppie existence. It is a decently entertaining, if uninspired situation. The script has a moderate degree of intelligence near the beginning but this quickly fades away until all the comedy is derived merely from stating the absolute obvious about the increasingly absurd situation. Yes, this is what a farce does, but traditional farces do it well, with intelligent puns, innuendos and commentary that this play lacks, despite being by a professional playwright.

The script might have been saved by good acting but it clearly was not. While most of the performances were very confident, they all fail to grasp how real people behave. It would be very odd if everyone communicated by flailing their arms wildly with every sentence. Just because the play is a farce does not mean that it is a cartoon. Many of the actors seem to believe that shouting increasingly loudly is a means to establishing humour. This is an example of the incompetent and ridiculous direction, which also for no apparent reason imposes a moment of, quite literally, toilet humour. Cues and lines were, at times, anything but tight. The acting at certain moments became so poor and cacophonous that I had to put my face in my hands and shut my ears.

There were some exceptions. Jenny Rubin gives the most entertaining and least exaggerated performance (not that this is saying very much). There is a great moment of rapid-fire dialogue between Robert Bouwmeester and Cara Howley, but this is not continued. Nikhail DeLahaya delivers a very impressive final speech that is one of the few demonstrations of actual control in this production. Credit must also be given to the costume design, which leaves most of the females in the cast with some very attractive dresses.

Perhaps if a better script were chosen and these schoolchildren were directed better (by being told to act like humans), it could be a watchable production. But I don’t see that happening.

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