Rumors By Neil Simon
Performance length: about 2 and ½ hrs.
SET DESIGN: Hard
COSTUME DESIGN: Easy
CAST POTENTIAL: Rumors is a high-paced farce characterized by Neil Simon’s iconic wit and talent for characterization. Your cast will love it.
CROWD REACTION: Simon’s script is such that even a poorly executed production of Rumors should elicit riotous laughter. This is a situational comedy tour de force.
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SUMMARY: We are at the home of Myra and Charley Brock who are hosting a party to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. However, when the play begins, Myra is missing and Charley, the deputy mayor, is passed out with a gunshot to his earlobe. None of the party guests have the slightest clue what has happened and are left scrambling to figure out a way to cover up the incident and avoid a scandal before the police arrive.
CASTING CONSIDERATIONS: With a total of 10 on stage characters (Myra and Charley are never seen, but yet their presence is still very much felt), split evenly between 4M and 4W and 2 flexibly cast police officers, this play offers a great deal of opportunity.
While this play is frequently produced by high schools (because it is so very, very funny), teachers should approach cautiously. The maturity of your acting pool should be of primary consideration. These characters are middle-aged, opulent, and (most importantly) married. Your cast needs to be able to represent the intimacy and angst that comes from a seasoned marriage because the play’s humor hinges on that dynamic. Fresh-faced teenagers, despite their talent, might find it difficult to portray the kind of weather-worn relationships inherent in the play.
SCENIC CONSIDERATIONS: The set is an essential part of this production. It needs to mimic everything (good and bad) about the characters who inhabit it. It should be large yet hollow, stylishly adorned but lacking of individuality, and feature many entrances and exits (as a means of escape and entrapment). Productions that scrimp on the set fail to understand what this play is really about: appearances and how they affect behavior.
FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS: Like most farces, where characters are put in situations designed to make them lose control, this play features a great deal of profanity. Most high school productions cut the language without a second thought, and the play still works without it, but the language does serve a rhythmic function that I believe is lost when completely censored. However, it is more effective to completely cut the profanity than to replace it with more innocuous vocabulary (such as “fudge” and “darn”).
PERSONAL REFLECTIONS: Next to Noises Off, this is one of the funniest play’s I have ever been a part of. Any good play should create two types of shows: the one onstage and the other in the audience. This is one of those unique plays where the audience’s reaction is as much a delight as the actors’ performance. And yet, behind the laughter and frivolity, Rumors touches on something very deep about our culture. On one end it illustrates our desire to hide what is private. On another, it shows how desperate we are to discover what others are hiding.