Widespread ‘Rumors’

You’ll be pleased to know that I am in a production of Neil Simon’s hilarious farce “Rumors,” which opens tonight at Elsinore High School and runs through Saturday. It is a very funny play, as you can tell by its subject matter, which is a man shooting himself in the head.

Normally, of course, a man shooting himself in the head is not very funny, especially if it is you. But when Neil Simon writes about it, he manages to make it seem quite funny indeed. He also manages to insert dirty words in about every other line, which, if you were to see the play in its unexpurgated form, would make you think it takes place at a meeting of People with Garbage Mouths. At Elsinore High School, however, no one says those words, particularly not the P.E. coaches, and particularly not when their students don’t run fast enough, so of course we can’t say them in the play.

You may recall that the last play I was in was “Shakespeare Shorts,” back in February, which was a pretty good show, except that it was boring and had the word “Shakespeare” in its title, which is pretty much a death sentence for any show. The next EHS production, however, was the world-renowned, incredibly-large-audience-attracting “Wizard of Oz,” which I did not appear in for some reason. Every time I mention this oversight to Craig Duke, the director, he points out that I did not audition, but I fail to see how that is relevant, considering the fact that I played the title role in “15-Minute Hamlet” and therefore should not HAVE to audition anymore after that.

I did audition for “Rumors,” though, and I got a part. I play Ken. Ken is a very nervous fellow, which is understandable, considering that his best friend has just shot himself in the head. Twenty minutes into the play, Ken goes deaf, and things get even funnier after that!

In order to Bond as a Cast and Grow as Actors, presumably so that it will appear more believable when I go deaf on stage, we even went to the trouble of going out to Joshua Tree National Monument and Yucca Tree Reserve to have a campout and rehearse our play. This little excursion was very effective, and I can honestly say that we did, in fact, Bond as a Cast on that trip. That statement is very funny to the people in the play. The rest of you probably don’t care.

Another thing we did was have an all-night rehearsal. Mr. Duke is apparently laboring under the illusion that if he makes us rehearse under bizarre circumstances — in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, etc. — we will perform better on stage. This, of course, is silly, and Mr. Duke is a silly man, but we did it nonetheless, and let me just say that you really learn who your friends are when everyone has been up all night, running lines and working on the set:

ME: (performing one of my lines) “I’m not calling the police until we have to.”
OTHER PERSON: (ad libbing something) “Shut up. I hate you.”

Come see the play or you’ll never hear the end of it.

I say in this column that we Bonded as a Cast, and that that statement would be funny to the other cast members. The reason is that our Bonding manifested itself in several cast members making out with each other. As I recall, it was Jennifer (the director's assistant) and Andrae (a cast member), and Shelly and Richard (both cast members). Ironically, the play was all about affairs and rumors of affairs, and at least two of the persons involved in the making out already had other boyfriends or girlfriends. We were cleaning up the mess that resulted from THAT campout for several weeks, as I recall. Let that be a lesson to you.

"Rumors" was the most fun I'd ever had in a production. It was a small cast, so nearly everyone had a big part, and there wasn't much sitting around. We were all friends (except for the fallout from that camping fiasco), and the play was funny, and well, we just had a swell time. I remember the experience fondly, even though I have little interest in performing anymore now.