Review: 'Rumors,' Spotlight Theater, through Feb. 3

Haley Johnson, Abby Apple Boes, Mark Collins, Bernie Cardell, Claude Deiner, Katie Mangett.
Photo Credit: Soular Radiant Photography

Neil Simon's 1988 comedy Rumors is funny. Really, really funny. But Lowry's Spotlight Theater's current production, under the spectacularly gifted direction of Luke Rahmsdorff-Terry and featuring a dream team cast of some of Denver's most talented comedic and dramatic actors, is even funnier than the script would suggest.

The first act, in particular, is rib-achingly hilarious, as eight rich, well-educated New York professionals stumble through various impediments and awkward situations in an increasingly complicated effort to deflect embarrassment, gossip, rumor, or scandal. Naturally, their efforts have the reverse effect and intensify all four outcomes.

Four couples are invited to a tenth-anniversary dinner party for their friends Charlie and Myra (who are never seen). Myra is inexplicably absent, and Charlie is upstairs in the spacious upscale apartment, having shot himself through the earlobe in an inept suicide attempt.

Bernie Cardell and Haley Johnson
Chris and Ken (Abby Apple Boes, Mark Collins) are first on the scene but are quickly followed by Claire and Lenny (Haley Johnson, Bernie Cardell). Cookie and Ernie (Katie Mangett, Claude Diener) follow a bit later, while Glenn and Cassie (Andy Anderson, Molly Turner) bring up the rear.

It's so much fun to watch these neurotic socialites agonize over what to do and what not to do. Simon does a superb job of introducing the cast one couple at a time and creating ingenious ways to clear the stage so everyone has a memorable moment to display their quirky and dysfunctional coping mechanisms.

The homogeneity of these middle-aged, upper-middle-class white couples is painfully, hysterically obvious. They all share the same doctor, drive the same type of car, belong to the same clubs, and feel that they are rightfully entitled to their comforts, having actually worked for them. Even their names share odd similarities. Sure, some of the attitudes toward marriage and social status are a bit cynical, (Simon was going through his third divorce at the time of writing) but they really do care about Charlie's health and reputation. These are basically good, albeit incompetent people.

Which makes it all the more hilarious when their elaborate lies become ever more ridiculous and complicated as the evening wears on. And since nearly all are suffering some kind of physical impairment at one time or another, there are plenty of opportunities for laugh-out-loud slapstick humor. My personal favorites were watching Cardell maneuvering with whiplash, Mangett's quirky chirpy back spasms, and Collins' temporary deafness, and there are some funny tipsy real housewives moments, too. Cardell performs a show-stopping monologue that proves that when it comes to comedy, he is Denver's own Nathan Lane. Meanwhile, there are one-liners galore.

Claude Diener.
All photos by Soular Radiant Photography
The second act sags just a bit, all the way down to the level you would expect from a typical hit comedy. When two police officers (Dan Connell, Kelly Alayne Dwyer) arrive investigating a stolen car and the sound of gunshots, the clueless and confused guests try to work together. It's more fun when they are at odds with each other, but their antics are still highly entertaining.

I know it's way too soon to declare Rumors "The Best Comedy of 2018," but Lowry's Spotlight Theater sure sets the bar, and the laugh quotient high.

Rumors are that the show is selling out quickly. Don't delay. Get your tickets right away. Rumors is the perfect "couple comedy" for people in their "professional" years.

Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, with additional performances on Jan. 15 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. (No performance Feb. 2). Tickets $12-$25 and available at www.thisisspotlight.com or by calling 720-530-4596. The John Hand Theater is located at 7653 E 1st Pl, Denver, 80230.

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