Academy Players open their 45th season with Neil Simon's "Rumors", one of his funniest farces. It is the tenth anniversary of Charley and Myra Brock and four couples arrive to celebrate with them. Charley's lawyer, Ken Gorman (Dennis Bouchard) and his wife, Chris (Darlene Mixer) arrive first running into trouble immediately. The second couple Charley's accountant, Lenny Ganz (Alan McLaughlin) and his wife, Claire (Janette Gregorian) arrive after having a car accident in his new BMW. The third couple Myra's psychiatrist, Ernie Cusack (Bruce Hammond) and his wife Cookie (Betty Nolan), a TV chef with a bad back get roped into preparing the meal. The last couple, a candidate for NY state senate, Glenn Cooper (Ed Carusi) and his flirty argumentative wife, Cassie (JoAnn Maccarone) add to the confusion of the evening. Add two inquisitive policemen, Welch (Chris Raffa) and Pudney(Bob Mignarri) to the insane happenings at this crazy party and you have this sidesplitting farce with continual laughter from start to finish.
Director Michael Farrelly has cast this well written show perfectly. Each character is different from the other and he adds much needed levity to the argument scene between Glenn and Cassie. The beautiful white set shows the wealth of the characters as do the costumes from tuxedos to evening gowns. Michael keeps the pace of the farce going and the performers are in constant motion trying to cover the gunshot wound of the never seen Charley. He incorporates facial expressions, hand gestures, running around the set, the different ailments of each character and the end results are splendid. Great job with a difficult show to do.
Dennis Bouchard and Darlene Mixer as Ken and Chris are whirlwinds on this stage. They run in and out of doors, up and down stairs and their comic timing is just as good. Dennis has a rubber face, he contorts into many funny and different expressions. He makes the deaf Ken, from an accidental gunshot, a comic masterpiece in this ensemble show. His opening and closing the door when no one is there and finally giving it the finger is a laugh riot .A wonderful young actor who shines as Ken Gorman. Madeline Kahn look alike Darlene Mixer is just as good as his cigarette craving, hive scratching nervous wreck of a wife. Her energetic portrayal of Chris leaves the audience exhausted just watching her. Her drunken scene with Claire and the interrogation scene with the cop are two standout moments of hers. Great job.
Alan McLaughlin and Janette Gregorian as Lenny and Claire are another dynamic couple. Their scenes about the rumors from Carol Newman and Harold Green are hysterical as are the reactions to the shooting of Charley with their crying and moaning. Alan has a stiff neck from the whiplash he receives in the car accident, carrying it off perfectly from beginning to end. He also has a three page monologue summing up what happened to Charley while pretending to be Charley leaving the audience in gales of laughter. A very funny performance. Janette is another comic gem in this show. Her expressions and the drunken scene are a couple of her highlights all done while using a New York accent. Her interactions with the other characters are well done, too. A talented actress good in both comedy and drama.
Bruce Hammond and Betty Nolan shine in their roles as the older couple but no wiser Ernie and Cookie. Bruce is a hoot when he burns his fingers running around the stage like a whirling dervish. His psychoanalytical babble is a perfect fit to this character who is reduced to being as crazy as the rest of the couples in the house by the end of the show. The apologizing for swearing and giving the finger twice are a couple of his shining comical moments. Betty takes the crazy Cookie and makes her bad back scenes even funnier by wearing kneehighs stuffing them with tissues and crawling off the stage. Betty also eats the pretzels and lemon squares while listening to others in scenes. She has a very funny bit when she dances by herself. Betty is another hidden talent who has a gorgeous singing voice as well as being adept in comic and dramatic parts.
The last couple Glenn and Cassie are brought to life by Ed Carusi and JoAnn Maccarone. In this usually boring and arguing couple, these two performers make them very interesting and funny. They use funny voices and physical humor to pep up the dialogue. Ed is multitalented, singing, dancing and acting with ease. He makes Glenn funny but also sneaky and underhanded as well by trying to get out of the knowledge of the shooting. The bloody nose scene is a standout scene. JoAnn takes the new age Cassie on a comic romp with her thousand year old crystals when she rubs them and loses them down the toilet and also by flirting with Ken, Lenny and Ernie to drive Glenn crazy with jealousy. She and Ed play off each other beautifully whether arguing or eventually making up with each other. Great job in two difficult roles.
Last but not least are the two police officers played by Chris Raffa (who took over this role in one week learning many difficult lines) and Bob Mignarri. Both of them added humor in the second act interrogation scene. Chris handles his dialogue with ease and presents a commanding authority figure in this scene. His character lets them off the hook because he wants to get home to his wife, too. Great job in a short rehearsal time period! Bob's officer doesn't have many lines but his eating donuts and drinking coffee in this scene are a hoot. If you need a night to laugh your problems away this is the show to see. Kudos to everyone who worked to make "Rumors" the success it is! (Other comic highlights of the evening are Alan's impersonation of Myra's voice to fool the other couples, the three couples dancing to La Bamba to trick the cops and two grown men (Dennis and Chris) jumping up and down during the cop scene with one (Chris) imitating the other's actions, vocally and physically.)