Lyric’s production of ‘Rumors’ opens Friday

Gene Deason / Special to the Bulletin
Even though he’s missing key facts, Ken Gorman (played by Nicholas Ewen), shown on the right, attempts to spin a narrative to explain the absence of their hosts at a dinner party. Fellow party guests Lenny and Claire Ganz (played by Levi Packer and Lasha Dennis), struggle to make sense of it all. The Brownwood Lyric Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors” opens Friday night. Tickets and concessions to the eight-show run may be reserved online.
Cookie and Ernie Cusack (played by Holli Blanton and Ryan McCormick) don’t know what’s ahead of them as they arrive for a celebratory dinner party in Neil Simon’s “Rumors” at the Lyric Theatre. The show opens Friday night.

Brownwood’s Lyric Theatre returns to the stage this weekend with its second comedy of the year, “Rumors” by Neil Simon. The curtain goes up on the first of eight shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

With it, the production company continues a measured emergence from pandemic-induced limitations of the past year, as vaccinations have become more available and numbers of cases in the community have fallen.

Unlike in February’s performances of “Clue,” seating will not be socially distanced except for in one show. Audience members who prefer to attend when groups of ticketholders will be automatically separated may choose the performance at 2:30 p.m. Friday, April 23.

Tickets are available online at www.brownwoodlyrictheatre.com, and concession choices may be ordered and paid for at the same time as tickets are purchased. Items ordered will be delivered to the audience at their seats during intermission.

The Lyric Theatre’s production of “Rumors” is being sponsored locally by Texas Clean.

“Rumors” is set in the upscale home of a New York City municipal official and his wife on the night of their 10th anniversary. Four power couples — their friends and clients — arrive for a dinner party to help them celebrate, but instead discover that their host is in his bedroom injured, his wife is missing, and the kitchen staff is nowhere to be seen. While trying to determine what has happened, the guests are caught up in a farce of physical injuries, false identities, shameful gossip, and an expanding cover-up of events that they never understood in the first place.

“Neil Simon’s witty dialogue is so clever and the physical comedy is hilarious,” said Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld, the Lyric’s artistic director who also is directing this production. “I truly believe that this will be a show that everyone will enjoy. As I have said frequently, please come see the show the first weekend because I think you will want to see it at least twice.”

Neil Simon’s stage plays are renowned for their situational comedy, but “Rumors” — which Simon himself described as an “elegant farce” — provided the playwright with a vehicle to unload his genius using outrageous themes and orations. Simon conceded that he wrote the play when he was experiencing difficult times personally, and working on it helped him cope. Indeed, the play’s comedy is drawn from the cast’s fumbling attempts to cover up that the party’s host apparently took valium and shot himself, although not fatally.

The show premiered in 1988 and enjoyed 535 performances on Broadway.

After Friday night’s opening, shows will continue this weekend at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. A second weekend of performances is scheduled, with shows at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 23; at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24; with the closing performance at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 25. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for students.

Cast members are Tommie Bailey as Chris Gorman, Nicholas Ewen as Ken Gorman, Lasha Dennis as Claire Ganz, Levi Packer as Lenny Ganz, Ryan McCormick as Ernie Cusack, Holli Blanton as Cookie Cusack, Joseph Dennis as Glenn Cooper, Alisa Hinton as Cassie Cooper, Jake Bowren as Officer Welch, and Domonique Stephens as Officer Pundey.

The show’s director is Nancy Jo Humfeld, technical director is Nicholas Ewen, stage manager is Carene Baslee, costume mistress is Tommie Bailey, props mistress is Kris Henry, light board operator is Jaimee Banks, and sound board operator is Dylon Evans.