In Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” the playwright wastes no time in plunging his characters into instant, bourgeois panic. The curtain has just risen, and already an affluent couple in sparkling evening wear are dealing with a crisis: An unseen man, apparently the owner of the elegant two-story home setting, has shot himself in the ear upstairs. There’s blood everywhere and a scandal looming – the man is the deputy mayor of New York City, after all.
The husband and wife dealing with this debacle are visitors in the fallen man’s home, the first guests to appear at he and his wife’s 10thanniversary party. Many more guests are set to arrive, none of whom can know about the barely functioning host in the upstairs bedroom. Much spirited high jinks continue.
First presented on Broadway in 1988, “Rumors” was Simon’s first attempt at a farce, and when done right, it’s a rollicking good time, even when its nearly two-and-a-half-hour duration risks comedic overexposure. And the team at Broward Stage Door in Margate, presenting the play through Sunday in a too-limited run, has mounted a superb, breathless production of this sophisticated, balls-to-the-wall comedy.
A cast with the ability to keep up with Simon’s witty, ratatat repartee is absolutely crucial to the play’s success, and at Stage Door, there’s not a rotten egg in the bunch. There are a few regulars from previous Stage Door shows along with some veritable unknowns, and just about everybody impresses at one point or another; the end result feels both exhaustively rehearsed and utterly spontaneous.
I was particularly taken with Jill Taylor Anthony, a natural comedian as the dotty, giggly, frequently soused Chris, and with Christine de Frece as Cookie, a television food personality with spinal problems that make it difficult for her to “sit, stand or walk.” As Lenny, Matthew Korinko is saddled (or gifted) with the play’s fast-paced climactic monologue – a difficult, sputtering narrative delivered with a pitch-perfect combination of inspiration and desperation. Christopher De Paola is memorable in a small role as the police officer investigating the gradual pandemonium in the house – a necessary jolt of straight-man sanity in an environment gone bonkers.
But the real star in this talented ensemble is its director, Dan Kelly, who orchestrates this ridiculous comic business with deft aplomb. He fills the disaster-laden interior panorama with wonderful touches, from a character limboing under Cookie’s protective back cushion to Jill Taylor Anthony pantomiming a swim atop the sofa. His right hand always knows what his left hand is doing, even when Simon’s characters have no idea.
“Rumors” is at Broward Stage Door, 8036 W. Sample Road in Margate, through Sunday. Tickets are $38, and show times are 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Call 954/344-7765 or visit stagedoortheatre.com.