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a Comedy
by Neil Simon

COMPANY : Centerstage North Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Art Place - Mountain View
ID# 4721

SHOWING : May 08, 2015 - May 16, 2015



At a large, tastefully appointed Sneden’s Landing townhouse, the Deputy Mayor of New York has just shot himself. Though only a flesh wound, four couples are about to experience a severe attack of Farce. Gathering for their tenth wedding anniversary, the host lies bleeding in the other room and his wife is nowhere in sight. His lawyer, Ken, and Ken’s wife Chris must get “the story” straight before the other guests arrive. As the confusions and mis-communications mount, the evening spins off into classic farcical hilarity.

Director George Canady
Cookie Cusack Cheryl Baer
Claire Ganz Stephanie Dennard
Cassie Cooper Cristina deVallescar
Lenny Ganz Darrell D Grant
Glenn Cooper Ali Gutierrez
Officer Pudney Steven Karnes
Chris Gorman Parris Sarter
Officer Welch Elijah Segarra
Ernie Cusack Jim Wilgus
Ken Gorman Darrick (DJ) Wilson
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A Laugh a Minute
by playgoer
Friday, May 15, 2015
When Neil Simon’s "Rumors" is done right, it’s a very funny play. Centerstage North is doing it right.

To start with, the set (designed by David Shelton) is wonderful. Tiered ceiling lines go from single story at far right and left to a full two stories at center stage. Sconces line the wall up the staircase, with an elegant chandelier at its foot, inside the front door. And that’s not the only door! Five others are spread across the two floors, allowing for farce-like activity. The walls are painted in a neutral shade, and the room contains one blue sofa and one tan, patterned chair. The blue and tan are coordinated by having a tan pillow on the sofa and a blue pillow in the chair. I’m not particularly impressed with the artwork on the walls, but the whole is definitely the look of an elegant, upper-class residence.

Amy Cain, who seems to have had a near-monopoly on recent costume design in the region, has dressed the cast members elegantly, except for two police officers (appropriately garbed, but not elegant). I don’t know that I bought Cookie’s dress as a 60-year-old Russian dress, or Chris’ dress as something costing over a thousand dollars, but they all definitely conform to the type of style needed. The costumes help make this a good-looking production.

George Deavours’ wigs generally look good, although Parris Sarter’s (Chris) has a wiggy appearance. Kathy Ellsworth’s props (including food) work well, and Brad Rudy’s lighting design impresses, particularly in its headlights-through-the-window effect. Rial Ellsworth’s sound design generally works well, although the intercom and police walkie-talkie sound effects aren’t always loud enough to compete with the sound of audience laughter.

In fact, that’s the main problem with the production -- the actors don’t always project above the sound of audience laughter (and of audience members repeating funny lines to a neighbor who couldn’t make them out). Aside from Darrell Grant (Lenny), all the cast members gave at least a line or two I couldn’t quite make out. Balancing that out, director George Canady keeps the pace sprightly throughout, so the overall momentum of the show never falters. The constant momentum doesn’t work in one section where speech is supposed to be exaggeratedly fast, then exaggeratedly slow (but in fact is at a pretty constant tempo), in marked contrast to Jim Wilgus’ tour-de-force, rapid-fire monologue as Ernie.

Every member of the cast does excellent work. I was particularly impressed with Cristina deVallescar’s realistic reactions as Cassie and with Stephanie Dennard’s brittle, impeccable portrayal of Claire. At one moment in the performance I saw, Ali Guttierez (Glenn) and Elijah Segarra (Welch) seemed to crack one another up during the police interrogation, but otherwise the actors hold true to their characters throughout, grounding the free-wheeling action in a kind of reality.

I only wish the final line were delivered from the locked basement door instead of from a generic backstage location. That would give greater resonance to the made-up story Lenny (Darrell Grant) has just told. As it stands, the consciously unresolved ending is less conclusive than it could be. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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