“Rumors,” originally by Neil Simon and directed at Brandeis by Neal Rabinowitz ’13, tells the story of two couples who have gathered for a tenth-anniversary party only to find the hosts in a state of absolute disaster. The story unfolds in an absurd cluster of nearly unbelievable happenings as the couples attempt to cover for their friend and host, who is the deputy mayor. The show itself is extremely humorous, carried only on the power of acting without any kind of gimmicks to lend it weight. It’s a challenging feat that the cast and crew of “Rumors” pulled off with apparent ease, creating a hilarious show that held unadulterated attention for its entire run. With no more than a set of actors running around a house, “Rumors” makes for a truly impressive performance.
To begin a long list of assets, the set created an atmosphere that complimented the show itself flawlessly. Set up with four doors, a set of couches and chairs, and beige walls adorned with modern art, the stage accurately reflected the home of an affluent suburban couple. The obvious attention to detail in creating the stereotypical wealthy homestead showed, and did much to create a polished and well thought-out facade. It effectively established the tone and premise of the show from the moment it began. Additionally, the blocking within the set was superb, as actors rushed from door to door to create an atmosphere of realistic chaos familiar to any attendant of a gathering gone wrong.
Of course, no set can pull off a show without a set of talented actors within it. “Rumors” utilized some of the best talent Brandeis has to offer, as a cast of ten delivered convincing performances full of with wit and precision. The show opened with the first lines of an overall stellar performance by Sarah Pace ’13 as Chris Gorman, who progressed through various stages of frazzled, panicked and finally drunk, throughout the show without hesitation or stumble. Her opening scene, performed alongside Aaron Fischer ’15 as her husband Ken Gorman in a similarly impressive performance, amounted to a great delivery of show’s beginning, key in creating engaging the audience from the start and setting up the show to come. In such a vital aspect, Fischer and Pace did a wonderful job.
Another great performance was delivered by Kate Davis ’14 as Claire Ganz. Though the actress often verged on a sense of overacting, the delivery ultimately worked well for the show as a whole. She turned a potentially problematic performance into a very appropriate and clearly well-imagined one. Most notable about the talented actors of “Rumors” was how clearly invested each and every one was in their role. They clearly all put a great deal of thought into planning their characters, and it showed in the final production. Bethany Adams ’15 particularly exhibited this asset in the role of Cookie Cusack, a part as far a cry as they come from young university student. The passionate flair of Samantha Levangie ’15 as Cassie Cooper played into this as well, as her character fluctuated between rage and carefully controlled manipulation over the course of her scenes.
Another particularly skillful performance was that of Christopher Knight ’14 in the role of Lenny Ganz, who appeared a rather nondescript character for the majority of the play, but wowed in the final scene through a brilliant delivery of the play’s climactic monologue. He drew all the chaotic threads of the plot into a cohesive speech that utilized the entire staged and served as a wonderful opportunity for Knight to show off his talents. In this pivotal moment, clearly a make-or-break aspect of the show, Knight pulled through for a great delivery.
The trap of “Rumors,” it would seem, would be to fall into over-dramatization and stereotype, tools meant to be utilized in such a show but that hold great possibility for failure. This production fell for none of those pitfalls, adeptly walking the line between extreme dramatization and humor without growing overly ridiculous. Rather than falling prey to stereotype, “Rumors” uses it as an asset, grounding its absurdist and over dramatic tendencies in familiarity, with over-the-top but ultimately realistic roles. They are delivered with great and effective flair as the actors engaged entirely with their respective parts. “Rumors” took a sense of over-dramatization and made it work, lifting it higher even than the individual actors could have taken alone, wonderful as their performances were. All told, “Rumors” is a great example of Brandeis theatre that deliveries wonderful humor with a rare sense of professionalism.