VST’s ‘Rumors,’ a witty success

Brendan McCarthy

Villanova Student Theater’s production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors” portrays what could have been the biggest scandal in New York high society since notorious publicist Lizzie Grubman put her car in reverse.

The production, which runs through this weekend, brings the audience into the living room of New York City deputy mayor, Charley Brock’s suburban home for an anniversary party. However, there is little to celebrate when it is discovered that moments before the guests arrive, Charley attempted suicide and his wife Myra has flown the coop. The resulting panic and scheming to cover up the scandal creates a delightful, engaging and comic experience.

Simon has created a blend of characters that include everyone from an overly nervous, take-charge couple to a clueless psychoanalyst and his charmingly dimwitted wife. The interactions between such distinct characters are what make this farce so funny.

Director Marc Napolitano has cast fine actors to portray such memorable characters. Valerie Giacobbe and Daniel Gallagher stand out as Mr. and Mrs. Ganz. Giacobbe embodies the upper class New York socialite that she portrays. A senior member of VST, Giacobbe carries herself with confidence on stage that sets her apart from the other actors.

Gallagher also has a magnetic stage presence. His character’s witty one-liners are delivered with a perfect casualness that adds to the comedy. Perhaps the funniest moment in the entire play is the conclusion of Lenny Ganzs’ lengthy soliloquy, when Gallagher exposes his monogrammed chest to the audience accompanied by the music of “Superman.”

Sarah Reisert does a good job in her portrayal of Cookie Cusack. Vick Bazarbashian’s role as Officer Welch is also well-cast.

Perhaps it was just her frantic character, but Megan Sullivan was speaking much too fast and seemed to be overacting at the beginning of the play. However, as the play progressed, Sullivan grew more comfortable and loosened up.

Napolitano knows the script well. His direction allows the panic and tension to build up on stage. The culmination of Act One is as hilarious as it is chaotic. In the closing moments of the play, a surprise knock on the door leaves the audience wondering what is going to happen next.

The color-coordinated costume design was very helpful. The matching colors made sorting out the rather confusing role changes between characters a bit easier. There was one point in the play when there may have been a problem with a phone sound effect. But on the whole, the technical aspect of the play did nothing but add to the experience.

The production is being held in St. Mary’s Auditorium. However, this play’s domestic setting would work better in the more intimate setting of the Villanova Theatre in Vasey Hall. Nonetheless, VST has done well with the resources they have.

On the whole, a smart script and smart actors are able to bring out Neil Simon’s true genius in producing a genuinely hilarious comedy. This is one “Rumor” that you don’t want to miss out on.