March 2, 2002- The rumors are true! Pistarckle Theater has put together another winner in Neil Simon's "Rumors," a fast-paced trip through gossip, deceit, petty jealousy and plain slapstick.
Throw eight bizarre products of the late '80s into the less-than-fortunate position of covering up their host's apparent attempted suicide. Mix in towering ineptitude, utter gullibility, and spousal wrangling. Start whispering. There you have it: the beginning of a fine evening of comedy at the theater in Tillett Gardens.
Neil Simon, elder statesman of America's comedy playwrights, has always been criticized by the artistic establishment as a gag-man and little more, but I think that few people who get out to Pistarckle will find anything lacking in his script here. There is certainly a theme and a generous dollop of social commentary for those who care to take it in, but Simon is not about to bludgeon the audience with it. He is an acid-free Albee with far more laughs.
"Rumors" is right on the mark following on this season's earlier fine Pistarckle performances of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)" and "You Can't Take It With You." Very much built on Laurel-and-Hardyesque timing, this latest production soars on the wings of a fantastic cast. Janet Mescus has a marvelous gift for confusion; Bill Mahoney is so immaculately over-caring and intrusive that he could pass for a high school guidance counselor; Dena Benson turns in another fine performance as a rather flighty and absent-minded cooking show host; veteran Randall Doty's small-time politician might well be one of our own august solons emerging from the Green Barn.
Thursday's "pay-as-you-can" pre-opening night performance saw the absence of house favorite Scottie Brower, cast as lawyer Ken Gorman. But director Jonn Jorgensen filled in with consummate skill. So much skill, in fact, that nothing seemed amiss at all until this reviewer took a long look at the credits in the playbill during intermission.
Chip Brookes and Rose Jensen delivered standout performances as Claire and Lenny Ganz. Their great interplay, his highly perturbed accountant/materialist to her wry, slightly passive-aggressive socialite made for quite the show in and of itself. Keep an eye on Jensen's facial expressions — there is a play written on her lips alone.
Set designer Pam Sullivan also deserves applause for a graphically appealing scene done in grey monochrome with pointed red accents. Take a few minutes beforehand to look it over and take in the little details — a really fine job has been done. And mind the doors; all six of them get well used.
In short, "Rumors" is quick, witty, well-acted and fun. Get your tickets while you can; nobody who calls St. Thomas or St. John home should miss this much melee.
The official "champagne opening" is Saturday night. There was no Friday performance because of the blues concert by Deborah Coleman and the Thrillseekers in Tillett Gardens. Curtain time is 8 p.m. with performances after Saturday to come on March 7-9, 14-16 and 21-23.
General admission tickets are $15 in advance and $19 at the door. There are special rates of $10 for students, $5 apiece for groups of 10 or more students, and $12 for school faculty and staff with I.D. Outlets are the American Yacht Harbor office, Bumpa's on the Waterfront, the Draughting Shaft, East End Secretarial Services, Flagship in Yacht Haven Marina, Marina Market and Tillett Gallery; charge card purchases can be arranged by calling the Pistarckle office, 775-7877.
Editor's note:Source reviewer Lane Sell is an Antilles School student.