Bowie Theatre's `Rumors' has wit and a stellar cast to match


October 13, 2006|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,Special to The Sun

Bowie Community Theatre shows impeccable timing with its run of Neil Simon's Rumors, which coincides with his being awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center on Sunday before a star-studded lineup, including Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Christina Applegate and Robert Redford. Simon wrote Rumors in 1988, his 23rd play and first attempt at farce, a form that depends on complications that spring from an initial true situation.

Because of the Mark Twain award, Bowie Community Theatre will honor Simon in its opening show and in the spring with Proposals. With Rumors, director Estelle Miller has assembled a stellar cast. Although Simon didn't create lovable characters, all of the actors in this production seem likable.

The laughs are provided with such frequency that the audience seldom stops to question the play's weaknesses.

In Bowie's fast-paced production, mystery surrounds the fate of the deputy mayor of New York City, who has apparently shot himself in the earlobe. Charlie and his wife, Myra, have invited eight of their closest friends to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, but when the guests arrive, neither the hosts nor the kitchen help are anywhere to be found.

After learning that Charlie has shot himself, they try to figure out why, then conceal the truth to protect Charlie's image and their own. Stories are spun to suit the situation until they reach total absurdity.

First to arrive is corporate lawyer Ken Gorman (Ray Fulton) and his wife, Chris (Joanne Bauer), who minister to Charlie - he never appears in the play. Fulton wants to keep the shooting secret from the other guests, and while he concocts his stories, Chris must deal with Charlie's doctor on the telephone and open the door for arriving guests. Bauer plays the confused wife to perfection, her facial expressions a comic joy to behold.

Second to arrive are Lenny Ganz (James McDaniel), a successful accountant who has just been involved in an accident that damaged his new BMW and gave him severe whiplash, and his catty wife, Claire (Michele Hitchcock) - a sarcastic gossip, inclined to judge everyone by their apparel. McDaniel gives a polished performance filled with comical stiffness and physical contortions. He reaches hysterical heights as he invents a confusingly complex explanation of what has happened as he impersonates the missing Charlie to produce a comic triumph.

Group therapist Ernie Cusak (Rick Hall) arrives with his wife, Cookie (Sharon Zelefsky), who has a TV cooking show. Both contribute to the hilarity: Cusak has conference-call group therapy sessions and Cookie struggles with a debilitating back problem, throwing herself into awkward positions. One of the most likable characters, Cookie is the only guest able to do something as practical as preparing dinner.

The last guests to arrive are a would-be state senator, Glenn Cooper (Michael Rogers), and his self-absorbed, insecure wife, Cassie (Jodie Calvert), who suspects that her husband is having an affair. He is not only a philanderer but a pompous, self-deluded fool who may be the stereotypical politician.

Adrienne Brown plays Officer Welch, bringing a voice of sanity to the group. Her sidekick, Officer Pudney, is well-played by Lucas English.

The multilevel set helps to move the action smoothly while evoking a comfortable urban lifestyle.

Be prepared to laugh yourself silly at the antics of this skilled comic cast. Rumors continues on weekends at Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park through Oct. 21. To make reservations, visit

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