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Review: 'Rumors' unquestionably good time

Actors Peter Mol (left), Russell Johnson, Michael Lupella and Tim Bowes compete to decide who will impersonate the incapacitated Charlie Brock in “Rumors” running this weekend at the Sheldon Theatre. (Photo courtesy Julie Martin)

The actors in the Phoenix Theatre presentation of “Rumors” all wear microphones, but they probably don’t need to.

Director Julie Martin’s adaptation of the Neil Simon farce is an energetic affair, featuring eight lead characters who spend much of the two-hour runtime yelling over each other.

Just about the only thing that could top the volume of the cast at Thursday’s debut performance was the frequent bouts of laughter from the Sheldon Theatre audience.

“Rumors” is crowd-pleasing comedy at its finest — just be sure to leave the kids at home, as it gets a little blue.

The play opens to a disastrous dinner party celebrating the 10th wedding anniversary of New York Deputy Mayor Charlie Brock and his wife, Myra. When friends Ken and Chris Gorman (Peter Mol and Marcy Watzl) arrive, they discover Myra and the servants are gone while Charlie, delirious on sleeping pills, is upstairs with a bullet hole through his earlobe.

As Ken scrambles to hide the evidence of the suspected suicide attempt, more guests arrive at the door. What follows is a chaotic web of deception as everyone loses track of who exactly knows what.

“It’s just too hard to follow,” exclaims Claire Ganz (Helene Olson-Reed) near the midpoint. “I need a bookmark in my head.”

Indeed, by the time the police show up in the second act to get some straight answers, audience members will likely feel the same level of frustration over how the guests — who supposedly are part of New York’s smart and successful elite — could be so illogical.

But it’s all in good fun, and made enjoyable by the wonderful characters. Credit must go to Simon’s original script, but much praise belongs to the performers for bringing these ridiculous personalities to life.

It’s a large cast for such a confined setting — the play never leaves the Brocks’ living room — but each actor brings enough flair to keep them distinct and memorable.

From Russell Johnson as the foul-mouthed Lenny Ganz, to Karen Renshaw as the flighty Cookie Cussak and Nicole Wells as the unpredictable Cassie Cooper, the cast is full of standout performances and a treat to behold.

Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman, who makes an amusing appearance as a New York policeman, remarked Thursday that the cast and crew had a great time putting the play together — and it certainly shows.

If you go ...

Who: Phoenix Theatre

What: ”Rumors”

When: 7 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Sheldon Theatre

Cost: $20.50 adults, $12.50 students

More info: 651-388-8700 or

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

(651) 301-7875