The ‘Rumors’ are true: BCTC starts strong

Commentary by Alex Hodges, Campus Carrier Arts & Living Editor

phantom of the opera
Cookie and Ernie Cusack, portrayed by junior Hannah Avery and sophomore JW Perry, look for a seat. Photos by Caroline Jennings | Campus Carrier

A farce, in theatre, is what I have understood to be a comedy that entertains through improbable situations created through exaggeration and extravagance. Our very own Berry College Theatre Company (BCTC) has brought us a play that is quite farcical indeed. “Rumors” was written by Neil Simon in 1988. It follows the story of a dinner party that is nothing short of chaotic from start to finish. Overflowing with hilarious miscommunication, dumbfounding, back-and-forth banter, somewhat slapstick confrontations and witty, situational one-liners, this play is sure to draw snickers, chuckles and wheezes from any audience. I can assure that BCTC will do well to rope you into the swirling madness from the beginning of the story, using a remarkably brilliant set, a convincing and effective cast and a seamless sequence of starts and stops.

The first thing I’ll address is the impressive set. Also characteristic of a farce is an event that takes place in one location, which is true of this play. With help from Broadway set designer Carl Tallent, the company has created a New York townhouse that provides a large, immaculate space for the eight well-to-do characters in the play. The usage of the expanse throughout the performance was notable, as cast members frantically ran up and down a tall staircase, in and out of doors and between – or over – furniture.

Of course, it helps to have an energetically kinetic show performed by a solid cast. The eight main characters in the play are all portrayed uniquely and quite well. The cast members make it easy to pick out each character’s traits. There is first a twitchy lawyer (Tyler Hooper) and his easily-confused wife (Morgan Smith), who open the story in a tizzy. Arriving to the party soon after is a pessimistic accountant (Andy Sphar) with his tennis-playing, gossipy wife (Kayla Ronchetto). Next are a goody-two-shoes analyst (JW Perry) and an over-the-top culinary TV-show host (Hannah Avery). About 45 minutes late arrive a short-fused candidate for state senate (Joseph Miller) and his high-strung, passionate lover, who also happens to be his wife (Abigail Stallings). Again, a farce is supposed to be overexaggerated, and these students, as well as those playing the four police officers who appear later, find ways to bring out these defining features to present a party of seemingly impossible side-tickling personas.

another day a little death
Chris Gorman, portrayed by junior Morgan Smith, assures Ernie and Cookie that nothing is wrong.

The last thing I want to mention is the ability of this cast, with direction from directors Anna Filippo and David Alford, to create and represent a constantly moving and tumbling story from beginning to end. From what I could tell, not a cue was missed, and had one been, things would have gone on poorly. This show, especially in the middle and end of the first act, has dozens of entries and exits from various doors in the set. I lost track of who was through which door several times during the performance, which made even more laughable the reappearance of certain characters as they stumbled onto or off the stage. The constant and hectic motion of the characters follows the constant complexity of the plot as it develops and explanations change.

The faculty, staff and students of BCTC have not disappointed with this production. As I sat and quietly laughed to myself at the state senate candidate’s explosive gestures and outbursts, I found myself thinking that I may just cough up some change to have a go at catching all the intricacies I may have missed, if not simply to reexperience the downward spiral of a plot portrayed by this fantastic group of students under the guidance of a great faculty and staff. Get tickets while you can because this is one wild ride you won’t want to have missed.

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