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a Farce
by Neil Simon

COMPANY : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 3138

SHOWING : August 29, 2008 - September 28, 2008



Four couples are invited to the house of a deputy New York City mayor and his wife to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. The party Never begins because the host has shot himself in the head (a flesh wound). An attempted suicide - or is it? A missing wife, missing cook, a damaged car, whiplash, a reocurring back spasm, and rumors galore add to the comedic mayhem and the situation gets progressively more difficult to sustain when nobody can remember who has been told what about whom.

Director Greg Fitzgerald
Claire Dana Barrett
Chris Stacy Bowers
Ernie Jeff Boyce
Glenn Jim Butler
Lenny Gordon Giddings
Officer Pudney Kelly Elizabeth Grady
Cassie Brandy Meinhardt
Ken Lane Teilhaber
Cookie Melissa Tracy
Officer Welch Dan Verboski
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A Very Impressive Show!
by line!
Friday, September 12, 2008
Me and the missus headed off to see a show at Kudzu last Sunday to support some friends by adding our butts to the audience. Kudzu’s offerings this season have been considerably above average: “Same Time Next Year”, “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Enchanted April” were all extremely good shows that demonstrated Kudzu can deliver more than just Children’s Theatre. They are continuing that trend with their current production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors”.

It all starts with the set.

Man is it IMPRESSIVE! Two stories! A balcony! More doors than Home Depot! Great looking furniture plus beautifully detailed set decoration that was spot on! This is definitely the best set I’ve ever seen at Kudzu! Not only does it look good, it functions perfectly and compliments the actors and the storyline exquisitely.

The setup of the story is that a party is being given by a New York couple to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary and when the first guests arrive, the husband is upstairs in the bedroom bleeding from a gunshot to the head, the wife is missing and the help has gone. As more guests arrive, their speculations as to what happened, drives the story on a wild ride through, around, but nowhere near the truth of the situation. It is filled with sharp wit, great one-liners, clever situations and wonderfully comic characters. Neil Simon at his best for sure!

The next thing in this show that is truly impressive is the casting. I have been known to rant about the “meager resources” of talent available to many community theatre productions and the resulting compromises that must be made just to get a show “up”. It is rare when a director has a variety of good actors available when casting a community theatre show, and even more rare when he or she has a talent pool that provides the “right” actors for the roles that need to be filled. Director Greg Fitzgerald is either really lucky or he is very smart (Somehow I think it is a combination of both). He has cast the “right” actors in the “right” roles across the board in this production. Each actor is strong, confident and absolutely correct in their roles (even down to the smaller supporting roles)! No compromises in casting! That’s truly impressive!

The first guests are played by Lane Teilhaber and Stacy Bowers who get things off to a rousing start! Stacy nervously frets, chatters and blithers while Lane tries to calm her down and get things under control upstairs. These actors are well matched and are a joy to watch as they set the pace and the tone for what is to follow.

The next two through the door are Gordon Giddings and Dana Barrett. These two folks stole the show for me! What a treat! Gordon’s humble exterior belies his great comedic acting chops and timing. Dana Barrett matches him lick for lick and does a great characterization which reminded me of Joy Behar from “The View”. I am really looking forward to seeing more in the future from both of these talented folks!

Then we meet Melissa Tracy and Jeff Boyce. They amplify the already wacky goings on by adding a layer of off-beat characterizations and goofy physicality. These two are followed by Jim Butler and Brandy Meinhardt who arrive with their self-importance and self absorption firmly in place. They play the “Battling Bickersons” to perfection.

Last but not least, in the second act, the cops show up. Dan Verboski and Kelly Grady are so strong in these supporting roles, they could have easily been cast as leads. They play it totally clear-eyed and straight while everything, and everyone, around them is cock-eyed and askew.

Finally I must say what an incredibly impressive job Director Greg Fitzgerald has done with this production! The blocking and the pace are pitch perfect. The movement and timing is like clockwork. Long trips up and down stairs and in and out of doors don’t interfere, interrupt or disrupt the dialogue or story. Entrances and exits were performed with comedic synchronization that was a blast to watch. The characters are well defined both visually and vocally and dialogue is delivered clearly, cleanly and with no dead spots. The focus never wandered to anything it wasn’t supposed to be on. All the elements of this production worked together with great synergy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this show, but there were a few technical things that I felt could have been better. Unfortunately, the stage lighting at Kudzu is barely adequate for this production and its double-decker set. There are too many shadows and dark spots onstage due to limitations in the number and type of lighting instruments available. I know this is a budget issue, but it is something I hope can be corrected in the not-too-distant future. The show looks good by maximizing what lighting is available, but it could be better in my opinion. Another little technical issue for me was that the sound system doesn’t allow for localization of sound cues. When an actor enters from a bathroom Stage Right, it is bewildering to hear the sound of a toilet flush coming from Stage Left. My last nitpick issue is the phone. Why was the decision made to use a cordless phone that had a low volume, and annoyingly electronic sounding (and consequently not funny enough)ringer?

OK, so that last paragraph shows that I have personal issues. So what? My wife and I really enjoyed “Rumors” and were very impressed to find such a wonderful production being done at Kudzu! See you don’t have to go downtown to see a good show! Check out “Rumors” – you’ll be impressed at the great time you'll have!



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