Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rumors by Neil Simon, City Theatre, September 29 - October 23

Rumors Neil Simon City Theatre Austin

The greater Austin area hasn't lacked for productions of this 1988 farce by Neil Simon. A search of AustinLiveTheatre brings back announcements of stagings by the Wimberley Players in September, 2009, by the Renaissance Guild in San Antonio in July, 2010, by Leander's Way Off Broadway Community Players in January of this year and even by UT's student-run Broccoli Project last March. That sequence resembles the systematic trial-and-error of artillery ranging, back and forth, close and far, until once all the coordinates are set, BAM! the shot goes home. Home, in this case, being the City Theatre, one of Austin's liveliest and most entertaining theatre venues.

Simon was one of the twentieth century's most prolific writers for stage, big screen and small screen. The Internet Movie Data Base lists 83 titles associated with him and its short title for his entry tabs him as the writer of The Odd Couple (1968). Rumors is nowhere in that list, probably because its premise, timing and humor are pure stagecraft. The audience witnesses the arrival of various couples in evening dress, one after another, all invited to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their friend and associate, Charlie Brock, Deputy Mayor of New York, and his wife Myra. Problem: the kitchen staff is missing, the food hasn't been prepared, Myra has disappeared, and their friend Charlie is in a daze, having fired a pistol shot that took off his own earlobe.

They're trapped in a situation that surpasses their understanding. Equally baffled by these circumstances and equally confined in this box set, we watch each couple squirm, panic, bicker and try to cover up as others arrive. Simon paces the arrivals and discoveries, and all we learn of Charlie is third hand -- he's confused, he's crying, he's taking Valium, he's sleeping, he's unavailable to answer when the police come calling to inquire about a car accident, a car theft, and the reports of two shots in the night.

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