Cue the laughter as ‘Rumors’ returns to Lyric stage in Brownwood

Gene Deason
Special to the Bulletin
Even though he’s missing key facts, Ken Gorman (played by Nicholas Ewen), shown at right, attempts to spin a narrative to explain why their hosts haven’t joined a formal dinner party held in their honor at their home. 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” continues with matinee and evening shows on Friday, followed with shows Saturday and Sunday.

Laughter will ring out again this weekend as Brownwood’s Lyric Theatre presents Neil Simon’s “Rumors” in its second weekend of shows.

The cascading comedic situations and sight-gags have left audiences holding their sides during the first four performances last week, with one member of the audience offering perhaps the highest praise on social media. “My face hurt from laughter,” he wrote.

Since members of the audience are having a good time, they can only imagine how much fun it is for the cast and crew.

“Working on ‘Rumors’ with this incredible cast has been one of the most delightful experiences I have ever had,” said Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld, the director of the comedy farce. “This cast is so talented and funny that they make the show sparkle. There are so many funny lines in the show that it will keep the audience laughing from beginning to end.”

The show is set in the upscale home of a New York City municipal official, where a formal dinner party is being held to celebrate the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary. The first couple to arrive finds one of their hosts bleeding and semi-conscious, unable to explain what happened, with his wife nowhere to be found. In order to explain the circumstances to other arriving guests, a series of unfounded and often contradictory reasons are offered. Predictably, efforts to get those stories straight result in confusing situations. Ultimately, the police show up, and a moment of reckoning arrives.

“The characters are in an unusual situation that grows more amusing as each new couple enters,” Humfeld said. “The story line is so convoluted that it will keep the audience guessing until the very end – and they will enjoy every minute of the chaos.”

Physical comedy is part of the script, but the audience will miss much of what the actors are doing elsewhere on stage, away from the primary action of scenes, to keep the laughs rolling with their more subtle moves and facial expressions.

Performances are scheduled for 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at www.brownwoodlyrictheatre.com. The cost is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $10 for students. Concessions may also be ordered in advance as ticket reservations are made.

The Friday matinee is a physically distanced opportunity for audience members, so anyone not comfortable being seated next to others because of the pandemic can attend. Alternating rows will be left vacant, and empty seats will automatically separate groups of ticket-buyers.

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 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. Ewen and Bailey are doing double-duty, serving both in the cast and the crew.