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The comical farce “Rumors” premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday March 20 at the Sheldon Theatre. The play is presented by the Phoenix Theatre. 

Four wealthy couples meet at an anniversary party for some friends. When they get to the party, they discover that the wife is missing and the husband has just shot himself in the ear lobe. 

The first guests to arrive try to hide the whole thing from the others to avoid a scandal and rumors.

“Rumors” is the hilarious farce with chaos and confusion as the guests try to keep what they fear a secret from the police and not ruin the reputations of their hosts.

The Phoenix Theatre presents “Rumors” directed by Julie Martin. The show debuts 7 p.m. Thursday March 20 at the Sheldon Theatre and runs through Sunday March 23.

“I feel really fortunate to get to direct such a talented cast with years of theater experience and training on the stage of our community’s beautiful Sheldon Theatre,” Martin says.

The original play was premiered at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre in September of 1988.

“Rumors” then opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre in November of 1988 and moved to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre where it closed after 535 performances.

“After rehearsing for weeks on a comedy, I start to wonder whether or not it is really funny. The situation and the jokes get old to me,” Martin explained. “That isn’t true with this play. I laughed at the first rehearsal and I am still laughing. It is hilarious.”

The farce starts with Ken Gorman (Peter Mol) and wife Chris Gorman (Marcy Watzl) at the 10th anniversary party of Charlie Brock, the deputy mayor of New York, and his wife, Myra.

Things are not going quite to plan. All the kitchen staff is gone, Myra is missing, and Charlie has shot himself.

Chris calls Charlie’s doctor, but before Chris can tell him what has happened, Ken warns her not to inform the doctor of anything that has happened – the bullet only went through Charlie’s ear lobe.

Chris gets off the phone just as the doorbell rings, she opens the door and lets in Lenny (Russell Johnson) and Claire Ganz (Helene Olson-Reed), also friends of the Brocks.

Lenny and Claire have just been in a car accident, and Lenny calls his doctor, who also happens to be Dr. Dudley, to ask him about his neck.

Ken lets them in on the situation and Lenny declares they should call the police. But Ken disagrees.

Before they can agree on anything, another car shows up.

Claire opens the door to let in Ernie Cusack (Tim Bowes), a psychologist, and his eccentric wife Cookie (Karen Renshaw).

Claire, Chris, and Lenny engage the Cusacks in conversation, not telling them about the situation with Charlie.

As the Cusacks prepare dinner, the final guests arrive, Glenn (Mike Lupella) and Cassie Cooper (Nicole Wells) who have a very strained relationship and argue constantly.

Act one closes with a chaotic dinner and Act Two begins as dinner ends. Once the guests are filled in on the drama, they blame the situation on Ken.

Just to be safe, the men decide for Lenny to play Charlie if the policeman asks for him, and for Ken to play Lenny. The policeman, Officer Welch (Jerry LaCroix) enters and interrogates them, and quickly gets suspicious as their story unravels.

“I think this play will give everyone the good laugh we all need after this brutal winter,” Martin says.

One of Red Wing’s finest, Chief Roger Pohlman, has joined the cast as Officer Pudney.

Martin adds, “One of the funniest things for me as a director was when I found myself coaching Roger Pohlman, chief of police, on how to act like a policeman.”

Tickets are $20.50 adults, $12.50 students and available by calling 651-388-8700.

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

(651) 301-7880