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‘Rumors’ a slam dunk at Timber Lake Playhouse

Published: Saturday, July 19, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

MOUNT CARROLL – After its last show, “Young Frankenstein, The New Mel Brooks Musical,” closed with more than a bang, Timber Lake Playhouse opened the fourth show of the season Thursday, “Rumors.”

“Frankenstein” was not only a monster show, it played to a monster storm setting last week. With doors blowing open and electricity failing, the cast nonetheless sang and danced to flashlights, a testament to their professionalism when the “show must go on.”

“Rumors” is a Neil Simon comedy, among his many successes, including “The Odd Couple,” “Barefoot in the Park” and “Sweet Charity.” The masterful effect about his award-winning stage and screenplays unfolds when oddly matched characters fall into real-life pickles with the resulting cauldron of mayhem. The mirthful result is classic to humor, as absurdity falls away from consistent rhythms, often without warning with barely enough time to recover from one laugh to the next.

Returning director Derek Bertelsen pulled the chemistry and delicate timing from this cast into synchronized body language. The Chicago director works his fifth TLP summer after many successes here, including “Spamalot,” “Boeing Boeing” and “Red Herring.” His Chicago experiences are with AstonRep Theatre Company and Brightside Theatre.

The “Rumors” plot is quite simple and, in fact, becomes unimportant as an upper-class anniversary celebration deteriorates into a farce, line by line, in two acts. (Yes, the glorious set design by Colt Frank has many doors to slam, but in an upper-class fashion with a two-story layout.) The country club set of couples who arrive quickly fall from their pretentious grace to an “he said, she said” farce.

There is no doubt that this season’s TLP cast has come together as one of the best ever. The members can be plucked from one to play to the next and excel intact.

Rapidly becoming a TLP favorite is Cody Jolly as Ken Gorman, a wealthy lawyer supposedly in charge of the situation. Jolly proved his all-consuming talent as Dr. Frankenstein in the last show. This show spotlights his furtive body language with vocal octaves of expression that segue from steady to croaking hysteria with seamless ease.

Allison Hunt as his wife, Chris, is a delightful comic at every slamming door, much like her last role in “Frankenstein” as Elizabeth. Matt Webb enters as Lenny Ganz, without the Igor hump this time, but with a convincing whiplash after his BMW accident. He earned an extra applause late in the second act as he stole the show with his own one-act fantasy about what occurred for the entire evening.

Caroline Murrah as Ganz’s wife, Claire, is appropriately thin and snobbish with a reputation that falls easily into petty gossip. Grant Brown as psychiatrist Ernie Cusak can entertain a seemingly suave aura, then turn the set upside down with jigs and folly at a moment’s notice, especially when he cares for wife Cookie, by Analisha Santini, whose back is thrown at the drop of a hat. Glenn and Cassie Cooper top off the evening as they arrive fighting. Gabriel Brown is slick as a politician, and Lexie Plath is fittingly volatile with entertaining mood swings against her philandering husband.

The household has completely fallen apart by the time Officers Welch and Pudney (Blake Price and Christian Chambers) arrive with even more chaotic ridiculousness.

Check out 'Rumors'

Too many laughs to list, go see “Rumors,” which runs through July 26 at Timber Lake Playhouse, 8215 Black Oak Road, Mount Carroll. All evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m., (no show on Monday), one 3 p.m. matinee today and two 2 p.m. matinees Sunday and Wednesday. Group rates available.

Contact the box office at (815) 244-2035 or www.timberlakeplayhouse.org for more information.

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