Hendersonville Community Theatre surprises with its creative approach to intimate theater. For the latest production — the Neil Simon farce, Rumors, onstage through Sunday, March 18 — Bobby Foster has created an intricate set, filling every inch of the stage, giving us a large bay window through which the audience views the well-appointed mini-bar. There’s even a small patio that can be seen through the large stage windows. The set design is every bit as clever as the twists and turns of Simon’s play.
The story is simple, yet becomes complicated when the titular rumors begin to fly. Deputy Mayor Charlie and his wife, Moira, are celebrating their 10th anniversary. They’ve invited four couples to their house for the party, but something is amiss. The guests arrive to discover a distraught Charlie (whom we never meet) upstairs with a bottle of sleeping pills and a pistol. He has shot himself in the earlobe. Was it a suicide attempt? Where’s Moira? What’s really going on?
At first, there are attempts to keep secrets, but once whispered rumors begin to add to the confusion, the guests must become accomplices in covering up a mystery they are still trying to solve.
Jonathan Forrester has become one of HCT’s most reliable directors. He has assembled a wealth of local talent.
Decidedly, the women shine in this cast. Meredith Kuhn’s Chris starts the show secretly smoking and openly drinking and builds upon that to comic perfection. Tessa Martin is always a solid actor and is great as Claire. Joria Ursin’s TV chef, Cookie, is a hoot to watch (she pairs well with Bob Reece, who plays her doting but befuddled husband, Ernie). As the new-age, crystal worshipping wife of a fast-talking state senate candidate, Beth Bristol adds to the lunacy.
As Ken, Mark Lieberman gets to contribute to the mania when his temporary deafness sets up rolling laughs at misheard details. Bryan Byrd plays Glen Cooper, the would-be candidate, with slippery glee. Chris Kingsley’s Lenny is quick with the quips and ends up being drafted into service to concoct a story of what really went down (even though no one has a clue) when the cops arrive.
Opening night had its clunky moments, sure. Farce is hard to do. But the charm of the cast and the passion of the theater shined through and carried the production to a satisfying conclusion.
WHERE: Hendersonville Community Theatre, 229 S. Washington St., Hendersonville, hendersonvilletheatre.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, March 18. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. $12-22