‘Rumors’ of death prove farcical

Elise Barnett

“Rumors” is a well-conceived farce that is both hysterically funny and poignantly truthful, and the troupe of talented Washburn students who performed it, do it all the more justice.

A crowd of people waited patiently outside the doors as last minute preparations took place behind the scenes. At not a minute past 7 p.m. the house opened and ticket holders funneled in to find their seats and were told “the best seats are in the middle” by the ticket attendant.

Depending on the formation and orientation of the set, the middle is not always the best seat, but for the Washburn University production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors” it certainly is. The crisp black and white set is a suitable blank canvas for the labyrinth of confusion to unfold upon.

A farce is a light, humorous play in which the plot depends upon a skillfully exploited situation rather than upon the development of character. In the case of ‘Rumors,’ the situation is an anniversary party gone horribly wrong, and after months of rehearsal and hard work the cast couldn’t have been more excited for opening night.

“It’s just been yelling to an empty crowd over and over again,” said Brandon Blick, whose character Ken Gorman becomes temporarily deaf through part of the play. “When you actually hear a crowd laughing, that is all kinds of relief.”

The first act opens to a woman named Chris Gorman, played by Nancy Morgan, pacing around an ornate living room as her husband Ken Gorman, played by Brandon Blick, attends to their injured host out of sight upstairs. As the act progresses, three other couples, and their problems, are introduced.

Lenny Ganz, played by Colby Cox, and his wife Claire, played by Ashley Vaughan, whose marital problems are no secret, are the first to arrive.

Following them are Ernie Cusack, the analyst, and Cookie Cusack, the on-air chef with random excruciating back spasms, played by Neil Thompson and Arissa Utemark, respectively.  Glenn and Cassie Cooper, played by Tommy Guffey and Patricia Carillo, who are in constant disagreement as to whether Glenn is or is not cheating on Cassie, follow shortly after the Cusacks.

In a plot that only gets more and more complicated, the dynamic between each couple stays consistent and offers up a unique aspect of comic relief from the sarcasm of the Ganzs to the unwitting slapstick of the Cusacks.

The diversity of the relationships and intellect of the jokes leaves something for each generation to laugh at, and the spirited explanation given by Mr. Ganz, then posing as the wounded, absentee host Charlie Brock,  to the investigating Officer Welch, played by Jon Rowland, and his partner Officer Pudney, played by Samantha Heath, had everyone on the edge of their seat.

“He’s like Chris Farley,” said Washburn student Matthew Harrison of actor Colby Cox’s portrayal of Lenny Ganz. “and, more importantly, he pulls it off.”

The show will run three more performances at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 and 20 and a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Nov. 21.

“We worked really hard on this,” said Thompson. “It’s a great cast. It’s a great crew. Everyone worked really hard on the show which is why it could turn out the way it did.”