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'Rumors' opens at Ashland High

Neil Simon's 1988 "Rumors" his first all-out farce, is Ashland High School Performing Arts' fall presentation, opening on Nov. 2 in its Mountain Theater. The play had a respectable run on Broadway with 531 performances, and is frequently revived. According to the International Thespian Society, it has had an after-life, too, as one of the most popular plays for high school production.

Days before "Rumors" opened on Broadway, Simon admitted: "This is completely different for me. A farce is relentless. There are so many obligations. It's relentless with its need for plot twists and to keep the comedy going." His concern here is the gossiping that goes on among friends who delight in rumors of marital discord. The play's message, perhaps, is that some people love to lie to deal with the truth.

Charley Brock, deputy New York City mayor, and his wife Myra are having a party to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. The four guest couples intermittently descend on the Brock townhouse in Sneden's Landing, only to find that the host has shot himself in the head (actually a flesh wound to his left ear lobe).

Was it an attempted suicide? But then the hostess is nowhere to be found. Nor are there servants on hand. The cook has fled to Japan to her sick mother, though the food is all laid out ready for preparation - roast ham, smoked turkey, duck, and pasta. None of the guests remembers who has told what to whom. A fine kettle of fish, one might say. And if rumors fly, so do doors-- fly open and slam shut &

proving that English playwrights don't own the prerogative to this indispensable element of farce.

About the guests:

Ken Gorman (Taylor Sharpe), Charley's lawyer, and his wife Chris (Natasha Barnes) are first to arrive, followed by Claire (Ari Susu-Mago) and her husband Lenny (Bobby Alter). On the way, their brand-new BMW , with only 12 miles on the clock, is blind-sided, leaving her with a swollen lip and him with a whiplash. Before long, Ernie (Eli Alexander), a psychotherapist, and his wife Cookie (Mig Windows) turn up. She has a cooking show on TV and is armed with a sausage-shaped pillow for her ailing back. Last to arrive are Glenn (Mikhail Pinyo), running for the state senate, and wife Cassie (Miriam Wasche), a believer in the power of crystals. They're a handsome pair in evening clothes but very much on edge one with the other.

Near the end of the play, the police come on the scene, the no nonsense Officer Welch (Travis Walker) and his sidekick, policewoman Officer Pudney (Phoebe Knowles), to do some unraveling.

The young cast has had the good fortune to be directed by Tyrone Wilson who has had eleven seasons at OSF (his Carl, the bus driver in this season's "Bus Stop" is a joy) and was actor-teacher for OSF's school visit program from 1997 to 2003.

Doug Ham again has created a splendid set - a two-storied townhouse with ample doors. The light design is by Phil Shaw, the costume design by Emily Inget. Jack Buckley is the stage manager, Mac Robinson the ASM.

Neil Simon in his Memoirs, "The Play Goes On" writes: 'Having just finished a dark examination of my own parents, of their broken promises and lost love, I wanted to erase these bitter thoughts from my mind and spend a year enjoying myself. A trip around the world would have been a good solution, but I had a different yearning. I wanted to laugh and to make audiences laugh. I chose to write a farce, not realizing that, technically speaking, writing a good farce may be the hardest undertaking in a writer's career.'

Come, then, check "Rumors" out. It is fast-paced with plenty of laughs and physical comedy. Performances are on Thursday-Saturday at 7.30 p.m. Nov. 2 to 4 and 9 to 11, with a Sunday matinee Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. For information and tickets, call 482-8771.