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THEATER: Ventura County | NOTES

'Rumors' of Neil Simon

Most of the playwright's trademarks are here, plus a helping of physical comedy.

September 04, 1997|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It says "...by Neil Simon" right on the Conejo Players's program, and that's a good thing. For "Rumors," the troupe's current show, isn't what you might expect from Neil Simon at all. Sure, there are a bunch of neurotic, middle-aged, well-to-do adult New Yorkers--it's got that much in common with most Simon. But "Rumors" is heavy on physical comedy, light on ethnicity and the angst of growing old. And, it's funny. Sometimes, side-splittingly so.

Charlie and Myra Brock are celebrating their anniversary, and have invited several friends over. But when the friends arrive, Myra is missing, and Charlie is--indisposed. The audience never sees either of them. Charlie's upstairs, with a bullet hole through his earlobe. (Was it a suicide attempt, or something more serious?) The first couple to arrive--Chris (Denice Stradling) and Ken (Ron Ford)--decide not to reveal to the other guests what's happened, and certainly not to call the police. If they did either of those two sensible things, the play would be over in 10 minutes.

The police do eventually arrive, but not before considerable confusion and overall hilarity. If, that is, you are prepared to allow for some purportedly intelligent people (politicians, an analyst, a couple of attorneys and so on) to behave in a most unintelligent--not to mention shrill and hysterical--manner. ("Do you want to spend the next 30 years of your life in a maximum-security prison--wearing a tuxedo?" is one character's rationalization.) And when the cops (Mark Fagundes and S. Krystal McCauley) do arrive, things get funnier still, straight through the freeze-frame ending.

The Brocks' other anniversary guests consist of Claire (Marcy Adriane Austin) and Lenny (Wes Deitrick); Ernie (Terry Fishman) and Cookie (Gail James); and Glenn (Bill Brandt) and Cassie (Leigh Sandness, especially noteworthy).

After a beginning that's so loud you may want to cover your ears, the play settles down into a still high-spirited but smoother mood under Don Pearlman's direction. Daryl Gustafson's handsome set design is another plus.

* "Rumors" continues Thursday-Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. through Sept. 27 at the Conejo Players Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $8 Thursday, $10 Friday, and $12 on Saturday nights. For reservations or further information, call (805) 495-3715.

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Coming Up: Last week, we discussed the continuing ad-hoc Neil Simon festival playing around Ventura County, and the upcoming spate (well, two so far) of "Nunsense!" productions. Several companies have announced schedules through next year; we can already tell you what one group is doing New Years' Eve 1998--"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

So far, aside from "Nunsense!" and "Jake's Women" (also covered last week), there's no repetition scheduled for the 1997-98 season--though some weekends are filling up. Four shows open around the county this Sept. 19 (two of them, "Cabaret" and "Oliver!" at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza) and another four (ranging from "Godspell" to "The Magic Flute") on Oct. 10; and three (including the musicals "South Pacific" and "The Most Happy Fella") on Nov. 7. Two shows are already scheduled to open on March 6, April 3, April 24 and July 17. But, so far, there's only one production of "A Christmas Carol" announced for this holiday season, in contrast to last year's three. God bless us, every one.

*

Casting Call: The Cabrillo Music Theatre will audition Saturday through Monday for its upcoming production of "South Pacific." Auditions will be held for the principal roles (Nellie, Cable, Emile, Bloody Mary and Billis) on Saturday in Burbank; two Equity contracts will be filled from these roles. Local auditions for principal and ensemble roles will be held in Thousand Oaks on Sunday, and dance auditions on Monday evening. All auditions are by appointment only; call (805) 497-8613 for further information.

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