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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

After seeing both a world premiere and an Indiana premiere in the past 7 days, I was contemplating what it was going to be like to see such a familiar play as Neil Simon’s Rumors, which just opened at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre. Here’s a play I have worked on in college and have seen at least 3 or 4 times. Would I be mouthing the words while remembering those experiences? Would my mind wander to past productions?

If you have forgotten – Rumors, Simon’s self-described “elegant farce”, is the tale of a group of 8 well-heeled friends meeting at the tenth anniversary party for a couple whom we never see, but whose actions before the play cause a string of mayhem and deception as the friends try to figure out what to do for and about the bedroom bound husband and the never accounted for wife.

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From left: Parrish Williams (as Leonard Ganz), Carrie Schlatter (Claire Ganz) and Clay Mabbit (Ken Gorman) in Civic’s “Rumors”.

Well, I needn’t have worried about a nostalgia – this production, directed by Charles Goad with a masterful understanding of Simon’s “set ’em up, knock ’em down” comedy style, is enormously fresh and exceedingly funny. Goad’s cast play the unending laugh lines with ingenious characterizations that fill the stage with a kind of quirky study of humanity.

Rumors is above all an ensemble piece and it was a great treat for me to see so many friends and acquaintances on stage, working so well together. The ensemble aspect is not lost on this group – indeed, it seems to be magnified. The story is told and emoted in a clear framework of comic acuity and tremendous acting agility. (I think having everyone being chaotic in evening clothes is a brilliant Simon bow to Moliere’s farcical plays which generally dealt with the well-to-do.)

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From left: Marni Lemons (as Cookie Cusack), Trevor Fanning (Erne Cusack) and Kim Ruse (Chris Gorman) in Civic’s “Rumors”.

Indeed, the first big laugh comes at the first actress’ first entrance, before she says a word. The production has that kind of inspired craftsmanship, hilarious characters saying and doing hilarious things. Of course, Neil Simon is a genuine genius with regard to writing comic situations, relationships, and reactions. This script is full of some of his best work.

It is all done on an uber-impressive two story set, designed by Ryan Koharchik, depicting the rich digs of a deputy mayor – with the main characters all dressed to the nines in Adrienne Conces’ polished costume designs.

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from left: Christine Kruze (as Christine Cooper) and Steve Kruze (Glenn Cooper) in Civic’s “Rumors”.

I won’t try to mention each actor and actress’ individual endeavors, just know that all are remarkable as they contribute to the full effect of the show, which for me was a wonderfully happy two hours, watching a very familiar comedy.

Bottom-line: Even if you have seen Neil Simon’s 1988 farce a few times before, you will appreciate and enjoy this company’s take on the enduring piece. These top rate performers get every last chuckle out of this wonderful old script.

Civic’s production of Rumors continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through February 18th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

*- Photos provided by Civic Theatre

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