Brownwood's theatrical talent on display at Rumors

New stars continue to emerge on Lyric Theatre’s stage

Gene Deason
Special to the Bulletin
Six of the 10 performers cast in the Lyric Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s 
“Rumors” are in either their first or second Lyric show. In this scene from the second act, Lenny Ganz (played by Levi Packer) is wearing a head bandage and robe as he spins a whopper of a tale to explain to police why gunshots were heard during a dinner party. Also pictured, from left to right, are Officer Welch (played by Jake Bowren), Ken Gorman (played by Nicholas Ewen), Chris Gorman (played by Tommie Bailey, in her first Lyric show), Glenn Cooper (played by Joseph Dennis), and Claire Ganz (played by Lasha Dennis). Jake Bowren, Levi Packer, and Lasha Dennis are making their second appearances on the Lyric stage. Neil Simon’s “Rumors” opened Friday night, and the run continues with a matinee Sunday afternoon and four shows next weekend.

Community theaters in cities the size of Brownwood frequently struggle to find the right people for the multiple roles needed for shows, but that’s apparently not the case for the Lyric Theatre.

The production company opened its second show of the 2021 season on Friday — Neil Simon’s “Rumors” — and of the 10 characters who appear on stage, six are either in their first or second plays at the Lyric.

The first-timers are Tommie Bailey, who plays Chris Gorman; and Domonique Stephens, who plays Officer Pudney. The second-timers are Lasha Dennis (Claire Ganz), Levi Packer (Lenny Ganz), Ryan McCormick (Ernie Cusack), and Jake Bowren (Officer Welch). Packer and McCormick also starred in the most recent Lyric production, “Clue,” in February.

But just because they are settling in on the Lyric stage doesn’t necessarily mean they are rookies, show director Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld indicated.

“These actors are a marvelous ensemble and are such a cohesive unit,” she said. “More than half of the actors have significant theatrical training and experience, including performing in some prestigious venues, which is unusual in a lot of community theatres.”

After performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the current run of “Rumors,” described as a comedic farce, completes the first weekend of its eight-show schedule with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Additional performances are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Friday, April 23; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 25. Tickets along with concessions may be reserved online at www.brownwoodlyrictheatre.com.

With the easing of pandemic restrictions statewide, only one performance will be offered with mandatory physical distancing, which includes alternating vacant rows plus empty seats between groups of ticket holders. That show will be the Friday matinee.

Tickets cost $15 for adults, and $12 for students. The production is sponsored locally by Texas Clean.

The plot involves four couples who arrive at the home of a New York City municipal official and his wife to celebrate their hosts’ 10th anniversary, only to find the husband injured, bleeding, and semi-conscious — plus, his wife is missing. The first couple to enter doesn’t want to ruin the evening for the others or embarrass their hosts, so they concoct story after story to explain the situation. As other couples arrive, with each carrying various physical or emotional issues, speculation spins outrageously out of control. Finally, the police arrive. Still unsure of what actually happened but pressed to explain the events, one of the husbands uncorks the most unbelievable explanation of all. Well, it at least it sounded unbelievable.

The play premiered in 1988, and that is the era in which it is set — complete with formal attire for attendees and a wired landline phone — a prop that helps support several moments of comedy.

While the availability of theatrical talent for the Lyric both on and off the stage may not be bottomless, the production company apparently is far from exhausting the local resource.

“We are blessed to have such a strong talent pool in Brownwood,” Humfeld said. “Moreover, they are all delightful to work with and are so supportive of each other. This makes for a really strong production.”

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.

In addition to Humfeld as the show’s director, 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.