Rumors has it: there’s a great play in Orleans

Written by John Watters, Barnstable Patriot

It’s a funny thing about rumors. They take on a life of their own, often becoming so embellished from the original seed of truth that they spring into a full grown tree that looks nothing like the original.

Such is the case in Neil Simon’s hysterical play, Rumors, now being performed by the extremely talented Elements Theatre Company in Orleans. The play was America’s most prolific playwright’s first attempt at a farce. According to the production notes he started by placing four very well-heeled couples in an absurd situation to see how they would act. The result of his experiment is uproarious in nature, a sheer delight to watch, and wonderfully entertaining in the adept hands of Elements’ ensemble cast.

Set at an elegant dinner party planned to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Charlie and Myra Brock, the twisting tale starts to unfold when guests begin arriving in tuxedos and evening gowns, only to find Charlie, the deputy mayor of New York City, lying in his bed with a gunshot wound to his earlobe, and his wife and domestic help nowhere to be found. As each pair of guests arrive they each evaluate the situation and in an attempt to cover up the truth to protect their friends and themselves, they make up outlandish excuses to disguise the truth.

Every facet of Elements’ production sparkles. The tight ensemble cast feature four couples and a pair of policemen who each carry his or her share of the workload to make it a very even show.

Chris Kanaga and Sister Danielle Dwyer, as Chris and Ken Gorman, are the first pair to enter the house and find things not quite as they should be. In the effort to protect their friends from embarrassment they start the ball rolling into an evening of subterfuge. Dwyer wears two hats in this production beside playing the highly neurotic Chris, who would kill for a cigarette to calm her nerves, she also has directed this masterpiece. Kanaga, a familiar face to Elements theatergoers also gives a impeccable performance, adding much comedy to the piece when he temporarily loses his hearing.

The next pair are Ellen Ortolani and Brad Lussier as Claire and Lenny Ganz, who en route to the party end up in a car accident in which Lenny receives a whiplash injury. Eager to know why something doesn’t seem quite right they quickly catch on to the skewed situation and start adding their own slant on the storyline. Both actors carry off their characters with aplomb.

Soon the next guests to arrive are Brother Stephen Velie and Rachel McKendree as the overly affectionate pair Ernie and Cookie Cusack. Ernie is a psychiatrist and Cookie has, what else, her own television cooking show. To make things appear as normal as possible they jump into the kitchen to prepare dinner before the last couple arrives. To add to the hilariousness, Cookie has severe back spasms that make her require a walker to be able to stand upright. Her contortions make for many belly laughs from the audience.

The last couple to show up for the soiree are Luke Norman and Kate Shannon as the cold, embattled pair Glenn and Cassie Cooper. Glenn is running for the state Senate, but that doesn’t help endear him to his wife, who believes he is also running around on her.

Kyle Norman and Karen Catlin play a pair of cops, Officer Welsh and Officer Pudney, who show up to try to figure out what in the heck has been going at this house on this crazy evening.

Set designer Soren Spatzeck-Olson should receive special props for creating an elegant apartment set that would rival any theater’s work at any level. The spacious living room with balcony and doors aplenty to make the fast-paced comings and goings easy is a thing of beauty.

Elements Theater continues to produce top-notch, high-quality theater at its beautiful Paraclete House home, and should draw crowds from all over the Cape to see their excellent work.