Rosemary Hartman says that in a farce, it’s tough to strike a balance between showing honest characters and performing their odd and deeply comedic circumstances. It’s the fine line she walks in directing her cast in the McLean Community Players production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” which opens Friday night at the Alden Theatre.
In “Rumors,” not all is as it seems at the 10th wedding anniversary party of a well-to-do couple. One host, the deputy mayor of New York, has shot himself in the ear; the other, his wife, is nowhere to be found. Guests begin to arrive, and hilarity ensues as the affluent visitors do all they can to quell the spread of rumors about their hosts’ curious conditions.
“It’s just one subterfuge after another, trying to keep this thing quiet,” Hartman said.
To push the comedy too far would make the characters into caricatures, Hartman explained, and to not go far enough would mean losing the full impact of the comedy.
“You want an honest portrayal of people who are experiencing crazy situations,” Hartman said. Still, as befits the genre, the comedic acting is “broader than you might portray a straight comedy.”
And when these characters are running up and down stairs, crawling on the floor, slamming doors, shouting at one another, injuring themselves, and finding all types of ways to deceive and misperceive, it’s easy to see how difficult it is to avoid being too wacky, or not wacky enough.
Hartman has directed many Neil Simon comedies, and often finds in them a depth and substance, beyond the laughs, that sometimes goes undiscovered. But in the playwright’s only farce, she says, that’s not necessarily the case.
While she admits there’s some meaning to be found, especially for a Washington, D.C. area audience, in a play about politicians putting on airs, she says that “Rumors” isn’t so deep. It’s about watching the zany things that happen to politically connected socialites, and she hopes audiences will have fun in doing so.
“I hope they’ll just have a very good time and get a few belly laughs out of it,” Hartman said.
“Rumors” runs April 19 – May 4. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. The play will be performed at the McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Tickets are $14 – $16. For more information, visit mcleanplayers.org or call 866-811-4111.