Grand Prairie Arts Council
Director: J. Alan Hanna
Stage Manager/Props Designer: Lynn Maudlin
Assistant to the Stage Manager: Michael Smith
Set Design: Matt Smith
Set Construction: Matt Betz, Karen Bond, Robbye Bond
Costume Design: Eric Criner, Costumes by Dusty
Sound Design: Steven Monty, Chelsea Monty
Lighting Design: Jordan Fetter
Prop Assistant: Mary Taxler
Chris Gorman: Staci Cook
Ken Gorman: Travis Cook
Claire Ganz: Dana Harrison
Lenny Ganz: Jon Morehouse
Ernie Cusack: Steve Adams
Cookie Cusack: Denise Rodrigue
Glenn Cooper: Keith Head
Cassie Cooper: Rose Anne Holman
Officer Welch: Adam Wallman
Officer Pudney: Cindy Newton
Reviewed Performance 9/23/2011
Reviewed by Ashlea Palladino, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Neil Simon boasts one of the most impressive writing resumes in American theater with iconic shows like The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park and Sweet Charity under his belt. So it should've been no surprise to me that Rumors was a sassy, witty and biting tale of upper crust neuroses ? but Grand Prairie Arts Council's production (running through October 2nd) was indeed a surprise.
Let's skip the formalities and say up front that, on the whole, this show was one of the best plays I'd seen in 2011. You have but four opportunities left to see a talented cast work a hysterical piece with a beautiful set in an amazing theater. So?why are you still reading? Those adjectives should've been enough to make you minimize this window, open a new window, go to www.artsgp.com and secure your ticket. Do it! (But then come back and read the rest of the review so I can brag on this show some more.)
Rumors opened on Broadway in 1988 and was written for the current day but it's a tale that could be applied to any decade or generation. It just happens to fit very nicely in the 1980's ? the decade of excess and indulgence. The story focuses on a high brow dinner party celebrating the 10th wedding anniversary of Charlie (who happens to be the Deputy Mayor of New York City) and Myra (his high society wife). Charlie and Myra Brock have invited four other couples to their apartment for this celebration and Chris and Ken Gorman are the first to arrive. The event around which the entire plot revolves happens before the curtain rises though we spend the rest of the play trying to get to the meat of what actually occurs. And it was so much fun!
Set Designer Matt Betz put together a detailed, complete set that complimented the story in every way. The ultra-contemporary feel of the apartment lent a great deal of credibility to the fact that all of these couples were high-profile in some manner ? the Deputy Mayor, a state senatorial candidate, a television host, a sought-after analyst, and a couple of lawyers thrown in for good measure. Everything in the apartment living room was chrome, black, white, grey or red, including the leather sofa and chair, the artwork on the walls and the very inventive staircase handrails. The walls were painted grey which helped the requisite farcical doors (there were four, all painted white) stand out in the room. I couldn't say too many good things about this set and how well it supported all of the action on stage.
Likewise the costume design, by Eric Criner of Costumes by Dusty, was impeccable. The men were dressed in standard tuxedos or some variation thereof and the women wore long formal dresses that enhanced each of the actor's individual looks. Chris Gorman was the first character we saw on stage and she was dressed in a floor-length black satin skirt with a red and black top ? she matched the set which piqued my interest with regard to seeing what the other actors would wear. Though the other ladies were dressed in different colors, none of the costumes were a disappointment.
If you've never been to the Uptown Theater you should stop what you're doing and plan a trip. (You've already bought your tickets to see Rumors, right?) This renovated movie theater was one of the best-looking facilities in the metroplex, and while its aesthetics were more than pleasing, it was also equipped with a fabulous lighting and sound system. The actors didn't need microphones, however, nor did they need to scream their lines. While the lighting scheme didn't change much during the course of the show, none of the actors ever stood in shadow.
Rumors was an ensemble piece from start to finish and Director J. Alan Hanna assembled a cast that complimented each other so well I thought some of the actors were actually married to each other offstage. Oh wait ? they were! Chris and Ken Gorman were played by real-life husband and wife Staci and Travis Cook. The playbill bios noted their history playing love interests in several other productions, and their chemistry and ease swapping lines and barbs seemed like second nature.
Mrs. Cook's timing was what I noted most about her performance, especially in the opening scene when her character was understandably frazzled and frenzied. She delivered malapropisms throughout the show and then corrected herself with quick precision. Mr. Cook elicited his share of laughs, chiefly during the portions of the show when he was?um?deaf.
Denise Rodrigue played Cookie, the host of a television cooking show and the wife of Ernie, her doting, baby-talking husband (played by Steve Adams). If I'm being honest, these two characters (not the actors) annoyed me when they first entered the action as they seemed slightly out of place amongst the rest of the party guests. But by Act 2 it was clear the show wouldn't have been as well-rounded without their characterizations. Ms. Rodrigue showed us "slightly ditzy" very well, as in the scene where she flipped her lid because she thought she lost her earrings?only to realize they were safely encased in her left hand all the while. Mr. Adams was amiable and affable during the entire show, but he was his funniest while answering the telephone and then during a scene in Act 2 when he finally reached his breaking point. The actors had to hold their lines a little longer than usual after that one because the audience laughed and laughed and laughed some more.
Glenn and Cassie Cooper, played by Keith Head and Rose Anne Holman respectively, were the most polished of the elite dinner guests and they were wholly believable in their roles as the state senatorial candidate and his disillusioned, distrusting bride. Mr. Head's fear of saying the wrong thing to his wife was palpable, as was Ms. Holman's pent up angst and hurt. These two used the stage to their advantage during the scenes where they were alone, and Ms. Holman garnered many laughs for her nearly running after Mr. Head as he paced the breadth of the stage floor.
The two police officers who entered the action in Act 2 were played by Adam Wallman (Officer Welch) and Cindy Newton (Officer Pudney). Mr. Wallman did a nice job showing us how perturbed he became with the nutty dinner party guests.
Though his accent wasn't totally consistent he did manage to act authoritatively, and he shared a couple of highly amusing physical moments within his monologue. Ms. Pudney had few lines, but she still picked up laughs for her interaction with the police radio she wore on her shoulder.
Ok, am I forgetting anybody? Let's see?oh yeah! This review would not be complete without an entire paragraph dedicated to the brilliant team of Jon Morehouse (Lenny Ganz) and Dana Harrison (Claire Ganz). Mr. Morehouse and Ms. Harrison were the heart of this production, and while their characters were written with the cleverest lines, their delivery, facial expression, timing and charm were what made this show successful. Their performances raised the bar for the entire cast, and Mr. Morehouse and Ms. Harrison managed to make the other players look even better when they were sharing the stage. Mr. Morehouse is one our most gifted character actors but this was my first opportunity to see him in something more than a featured role. He ate up the stage, people! Mr. Morehouse is not a very tall man whereas Ms. Harrison is of above average height for a lady. Add 3-inch heels to her costuming and Ms. Harrison was a full head taller than Mr. Morehouse. I don't know if this was a conscious casting decision by Mr. Hanna, but the effect was priceless, especially early in Act 1 when Lenny, who was suffering from whiplash, verbalized his hope that there would be tall people at the party.
Have I gushed and raved enough? Have you bought your tickets? Rumors is a hit ? and that's no lie.
Grand Prairie Arts Council Uptown Theater
120 E. Main Street, Grand Prairie, TX 75050
Runs through October 2nd
Shows are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 2:00pm
Tickets range in price from $9 to $21 and may be purchased online at www.artsgp.com or by calling the box office at 972-237-8786.