Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Mike Martin 

“Bigger. Louder. Funnier.” If you have ever performed in a comedy or been lucky enough to direct one, you have heard this phrase. For the uninitiated it simply means to raise the energy. Comedies need energy, or they tend to give the audience too much time to start poking holes in their thin plots and characters. It’s a decent way to get across a simple concept. When in doubt, “Go big!”

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photo courtesy : Costa Mesa Playhouse

However, Kyle Myers (the director of this piece) seems to have learned that one rather hackneyed saying and nothing else about comedy. The cast of Rumors assaults the audience with mugging, wild gesticulations, purposeless and manic blocking and little in the way of humor. This is a Michael Bay version of comedy: overwhelming, loud and ultimately pointless.

To be fair, Neil Simon is many things, but a writer of farce he is not. His characters’ verbosity does not lend itself to the simple plots and simple complications that make farce work. It would have taken an approach far more nuanced than anything we see in this rendition to have made the script mildly enjoyable. This production gets two things wrong –farce and how to help this script become a farce. This is the rare farce that may have needed to take a bit of time to set things up for the audience. But we are given no such luxury. As such the characters are two dimensional even for this sort of fluff, and we ultimately don’t care about any of the nonsense they get up to.

It’s not to say this production doesn’t get scattered laughs. It does. But by my count about 95% of then are driven by a goofy face a character has made, a contorted body position or a delivery too rapidly fired to be clearly understood. Worse yet, the performers can’t even seem to remember what ridiculous physicality they want to carry over into the next scene (a case of intermittent whiplash comes to mind).

I do have to put a great deal of this at the director’s feet simply because I happen to know what a couple of the featured performers are capable of. In at least some of those cases they have been and were capable of great comedic performances. I won’t name names, but there were (in my opinion) some performers who were wasted in this show.

The exception proving the rule is Emily MacAgy as Claire. MacAgy seems to have a better understanding of this script than the director does. She routinely listens and reacts even while she’s surrounded with castmates who are simply waiting for their turn to launch into another screaming match. Too bad she doesn’t have more in the way of actual characters to interact with.

Technically, the set was lackluster. The lights were standard pools, and sound was non-existent except when a phone would ring at the wrong time. Even the costuming suggested less “New York Society” and more  “things from the cast’s closets.”

I cannot recommend this show even as something “so-bad-it’s-good.” 

April 8th – May 1st

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