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Laughter and nostalgia run away with the show

Ken Gorman, left, played by Devin Carey, makes up a story for his wife, Chris Gorman, played by Megann Davis, to tell the doctor on the phone during a rehearsal of "Rumors" at the Pepsi Cola Theatre in Mitchell.

“Nostalgia” was the word that kept coming to me as I watched the Mitchell Area Community Theatre’s current production of “Rumors” by Neil Simon. Nostalgia for slapstick comedy; nostalgia for what we remember as a simpler time, when an evening’s light entertainment was a break from the routine; and nostalgia for friends as performers, the central defining feature of community theatre.

Cat Erickson and Terri Jacklin have been blessed with a fine cast to stage this comedy in two acts. Set in 1980s New York City, guests are arriving for an anniversary party at the home of the deputy mayor. But things are a mess: The hostess and the servants are missing and the host has suffered what appears to be a gunshot wound. No, this is not Agatha Christie; these party guests will not be solving the crime. Instead, to quell rumors, the explanations and theories shared as each guest arrives become more and more ridiculous.  

The cast consists of veterans, newcomers and some familiar faces newly-returned to the ACT stage. Devin Carey and Megann Davis play Ken and Chris Gorman, close friends of the hosts. Soon to arrive are Lenny and Claire Ganz (Paul Wishard and Beth Joramo), a wealthy socialite couple. Ken brings Lenny in on his plan to keep the other guests in the dark to protect the deputy mayor from scandal. Psychoanalyst Ernie Cusack (Dennis Westgard) and his TV cooking show celebrity wife, Cookie (Micaela Nelson) and young politician Glenn Cooper and his wife Cassie (real-life couple Andrew and Jessica Mefferd) round out the guest list.

Carey’s physical comedy as he suffers an accidental bout of hearing loss, is nearly perfection. Wishard delivers a tour de force monologue near the play’s end, attempting to explain to the police exactly what’s been going on. Westgard and Nelson are perfectly paired as a long-married couple. And the younger wives bring just the right amount of glamour and sophistication to the mix.

Jacklin and Erickson, along with Al Jacklin, have designed a charming set with a floating staircase that evokes the 1970s feel (think Brady Bunch) and, like many a farce before it, depends on slamming doors, telephone cues and multiple trips up and down the stairs to elicit as many laughs as possible. Aaron Krumholz’s lighting allows the set to be displayed beautifully. The music between the acts is complementary; listen carefully to see if you can identify the theme. One caution: this show contains adult language.

I very much enjoyed the nostalgia of this show. I am a big fan of comedy, farce in particular. We have many entertainment choices, but there is something about watching friends on stage, making silly fools of themselves and, in the process, making us laugh, that I find delightful. This show was one of the last that ACT veteran actor and board member Roger Allen helped select as part of the troupe’s reading committee. The group could not have paid him a better tribute than the performance you will see if you attend.

The show by Area Community Theatre has performances Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre. Tickets are on sale at the theatre or more information is available at 996-9137 or www.mitchellact.org.

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