Clever writing, strong cast propel over-the-top ‘Rumors’

Mark Peterson, left, as Ken Gorman, and Jess Allan as Chris Gorman.
Mark Peterson, left, as Ken Gorman, and Jess Allan as Chris Gorman. Courtesy of Tacoma Little Theatre

Neil Simon’s “Rumors” at Tacoma Little Theatre is loud, raucous, fast-paced, witty and pretty much over the top from curtain to curtain. The laughter of the opening night crowd was just as loud as the gesticulating and shouting actors on stage.

There is little subtlety or nuance in this comedy. But where there is subtlety, it is golden — as when the overly nervous Chris Gorman (sharply portrayed by Jess Allan) gets mad at another guest and hisses like a cat. It’s an action that takes no more than two seconds, but it is perfectly played and brings down the house.

The action takes place in the Manhattan apartment of the deputy mayor of New York and his wife, neither of whom ever appear on stage.

It is their 10th anniversary, and they’re throwing a party. But when the guests arrive, Charlie, the deputy mayor, has attempted suicide and missed, just shooting his ear lobe. He is shut up in an upstairs bedroom and his wife has left. Nobody knows where she has gone.

The beauty of setting the play in a single apartment on a single evening is that no set or costume changes are required.

That is, except when Lenny (Matt Garry) comes downstairs wearing a bathrobe and sporting a bandaged ear, pretending to be the deputy mayor and giving a couple of incredulous cops a long and absurd explanation of why gunshots were reported and why all the obviously well-heeled guests are acting so strange.

A lawyer named Ken (Mark Peterson) and his wife, Chris (Allan), are the first guests to arrive, and Ken decides nobody can know Charlie shot himself.

When the next guests arrive, Lenny and his wife, Claire (Jill Heinecke), make up stupid excuses about why Charlie and his wife aren’t there, excuses that keep getting more and more implausible because their stories are too wild to be believed.

The plot thickens when a psychiatrist named Ernie (Jefferry Swiney-Weaver) and his wife, Cookie (Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson) show up.

Cookie, who stars in a cooking show on TV and who periodically screams and contorts her body with severe back spasms, volunteers to cook dinner because the servants are mysteriously missing.

Into this chaotic mixture come Glenn Cooper (Houston White), who is running for state senator, and his wife, Cassie (Kristen Blegen Bouyer), a new-agey vamp who keeps rubbing herself with a crystal and accusing her husband or infidelity.

There are a lot of whispered rumors of infidelity involving various characters, thus the title, “Rumors.”

The cast is comprised of experienced actors who not only play their parts well but also are clearly having fun doing it. Every one deserves special mention, but two in particular stand out — Peterson and Garry.

Peterson, who has a booming, guttural voice and a demanding stage presence is sometimes overwhelming, but in this role, shouting and overacting is called for, and he does it magnificently.

Garry is physically and verbally spot-on. In this role, he reminds me of classical comedians like Sid Caesar and Jackie Gleeson.

Finally, I must say the set by Blake York is wonderful.

The entire apartment with its staircase and floor-to-ceiling windows is patterned after a Piet Mondrian painting with everything but the diagonal of the staircase being rectangles and squares in primary red, yellow, white and blue with black lines.

It’s all a bit retro for being set in 1989, but absolutely gorgeous.

If you like a good farce, this one is one of the best, cleverly written and performed by great actors.

Warning: There is a liberal sprinkling of language that might be offensive to some.

Check Alec Clayton’s blog at alecclayton.blogspot.com for reviews of other area theatrical productions.


When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 1.

Where: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma.

Tickets: $20-$24.

Information: 253-272-2281, www.tacomalittletheatre.com.