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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Arts and Entertainment

Psssssst…spread the "Rumors"

Never a dull moment in Laughing Stock’s funny farce

Express Staff Writer

Exactly how irresistible would it be if you were a fly on the wall, watching and listening to a steady stream of gossip, rumors, innuendo and wildly fabricated cover-ups from a group of upper-crust phonies?

Totally irresistible.

Page Klune as Cassie Cooper expresses dissatisfaction with her husband Glenn Cooper’s behavior in "Rumors," Laughing Stock Theater Company’s marvelous production of the Neil Simon comedy. Express photo by Willy Cook

So spread the rumor—the Laughing Stock Theater Company has returned to its Neil Simon roots and put together an irresistible evening of fast-paced farce. The two-act comedy is "Rumors," and there are four more performances at nexStage Theatre in Ketchum.

What a hoot! Best of all, tickets are still available for 8 p.m. curtain calls Thursday, June 17 through Sunday, June 20 in the Ketchum theater.

The high-energy show runs a brisk two hours, with one intermission. Best of all, it has no redeeming social value, choosing instead to push the buttons of pure entertainment.

"Rumors," harkens back to the early days of community theater in the valley.

No, he’s not the hired help, but Bill Nagel (left) as Ernie Cusack offers some ideas about a cover-up to Steve D’Smith (the hearing-challenged Ken Gorman) Express photo by Willy Cook

The Neil Simon connection goes back 27 years—to the start of Laughing Stock Theater Company in 1977 when Kathy Wygle was instrumental in twisting this arm and sweet-talked that person and persuading everyone that community theater could work here.

The result was Simon’s "Plaza Suite," Laughing Stock’s first of 48 productions. Wygle, at the time running a tropical fish store and bartending, was one of the stars. So was Rick Kessler, who was getting his Magic Lantern Cinema off the ground. Bill Nagel was also involved in what became a wildly-successful start-up.

Fast forward to 2004, as quick as you can say "where in the world are Charley and Myra Brock?" And the three are still involved.

It’s not a heart attack that Scott Creighton (as Lenny Ganz) is having, but something like shock at the latest revelation in the "Rumors," tangle of tales. Express photo by Willy Cook

Kessler still commands attention on stage. Nagel’s pratfalls are legendary. Wygle is the director—a generous talent who knows what entertains here and how it fits together.

Kessler and Nagel are two of the lead actors in "Rumors."

The rest of the dead-on cast of cover-up collaborators features Mary Lynn Cleary, Scott Creighton, Dana DuGan, Steve D’Smith, Page Klune, Jana Arnold, Matt Gorby and Kristy Kuntz. Stage manager is Kathy Ogilvie, and Peter and Patti Ahrens do the sets and building. Like every Laughing Stock show, everybody pitches in.

The result is broad, sidesplitting humor.

Dana DuGan (left, as Chris Gorman) gets ready to spill the beans to her best friend Mary Lynn Cleary (as Claire Ganz). In "Rumors," the actual "beans" are somewhat flexible, depending on the moment and the speaker. What’s clearly true in "Rumors," is that Dana and Mary Lynn never heard a rumor they didn’t absolutely adore. Express photo by Willy Cook

Timing is everything in "Rumors," because nothing really happens. What you have is a gunshot and its aftermath. The gunshot has to be explained, of course. If you don’t know the answer, you just have to make something up.

And make something else up. And try to remember what you made up in the first place.

Get eight people doing that in the same room and the expressions and sarcasm and accusations and miscommunication and misinformation are totally priceless.

The 10th wedding anniversary party of New York deputy mayor Charley Brock and his wife Myra is the reason four couples are getting together on a June evening in Sneden’s Landing, N.Y. Never, not once, do the Brocks appear on stage.

Mary Lynn Cleary as Claire Ganz and Bill Nagel as Ernie Cusack discuss the finer points of a truly bizarre June evening in Sneden’s Landing, N.Y. Express photo by Willy Cook

Brock, apparently, has shot a bullet through his earlobe in an upstairs room. Myra has disappeared. The question is, did Charley try to kill himself? Dulled with self-involvement, the arriving guests aren’t concerned in the least with Charley’s health, but rather with keeping up appearances in the face of possible scandal.

Happily, the lies and half-truths they invent are anything but dull. Chaotic, but never dull. Hilarious, but never exactly heartwarming. As advertised—no redeeming social value except entertainment.

Oops! Rick Kessler (left) as Glenn Cooper mops up a bloody nose, which wasn’t caused by Bill Nagel (right) as Ernie Cusack. Express photo by Willy Cook

The cast is marvelous and it’s impossible to single anyone out because of its ensemble excellence, but let’s say something about Scott Creighton, He draws deep from whiplash-inflicted Lenny Ganz’s cynicism to summon up a truly unbelievable monologue of love and sheer desperation.

Creighton, pinned down by police, takes the bull by the horns and tries to explain the unexplainable. Pretending to be Charley, he wings it and makes up a story that’s a combination of romance novel and film noir. The cop doesn’t believe it, but he buys it—and the audience applauds wildly.

Truly wonderful stuff.

"Rumors" played 535 performances on Broadway from Nov. 1988 through Feb. 1990, and Christine Baranski won the 1989 Tony award for Best Featured Actress in the role of Chris Gorman.

A few more accolades should to Dana DuGan, who plays the Baranski role with aplomb; to Mary Lynn Cleary, whose rubber-faced reactions in the role of Claire Ganz are truly something to see; and to Wygle, who seamlessly cast the play and made the timing between the characters work like magic.


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