Hillsboro production of Neil Simon's classic farce is headed into its final weekend
When guests arrive to a dinner party at a posh New York home to find a blood-spattered host, absentee kitchen staff and a slowly unfolding comedy of errors, the last thing they want to do is call the police. Why, that just wouldn't do.
Instead, the characters in Neil Simon's triumphant farce, 'Rumors,' lie, cajole and dither to the delight of cackling audiences. It's the stuff of Broadway legend, and this is its final weekend at Hillsboro's HART Theatre.
Originally opened on Broadway in 1988, 'Rumors' ran for 535 performances and received rave reviews. Time magazine called it 'an old-fashioned door slamming, crockery-smashing farce.'
Today, mocking the rich appears just as funny as it was two decades ago, especially when wealth translated to turtlenecks and car phones.
'If you want to laugh your head off for two hours, this is the show to come see,' said Meghan Daaboul, a Beaverton actress who chose 'Rumors' as her first play to direct for HART.
Local audiences packed a full house on opening nights, and a sold-out showing on March 31 predicted plentiful crowds to come.
Daaboul, a 2001 Whitman College theater graduate, said she chose the Neil Simon script knowing it would be a challenge. To achieve its full potential hilarity, a classic farce requires good acting and precise timing, she says.
Wastes no time
Daaboul says Simon's classic wastes no time out of the gate. From the moment curtains go up, action is taking place. Audiences are hooked by frantic, high-energy characters constantly moving about the stage - pacing back and forth, entering a room one minute and exiting the next, slamming doors and nailing one-liners - in monologues and nutty repartee.
To get the timing down (and make it funny), Daaboul credits nine weeks of rehearsal and 10 'phenomenal' actors and actresses, many of whom have shared the stage with her during four years of acting with HART.
Rosalind Fell, who plays Chris Gorban, wife of the first couple to arrive on scene, was excited to tackle the work of a writer she much admired.
But during auditions and early rehearsals, she was concerned that her English accent might be too jarring for the very American play.
DaaBoul, however, wasn't worried. The play's crew of upper class New Yorkers could easily harbor a Londoner without straining credulity, she thought. If anyone in the audience on opening weekend was unpleasantly surprised, they didn't show it.
'As actors on stage, we could feel that the audience was very much enwrapped in the story [with us],' said Fell. 'You could hear their realizations of what was happening - you don't often get that.'
As incidents occur and the play unfolds, there are plenty of revelations and 'a-ha' moments for the audience - all the way to the curtain call, Fell said.
'There is a major twist at the end of the play,' Fell notes, but Simon's script doesn't give away many clues. 'He'll keep the audience guessing all the way through.'
In a 1988 interview with the New York Times, 61-year-old Simon said, ''The simplest aspect of farce is you need a lot of doors. And you need people to go running in and out of them, just missing each other.'
Generally speaking, he added, 'In a farce people are trying to withhold information from other people. I've hardly seen a farce in which that didn't happen.'
HART recommends that guests reserve tickets in advance for performances, which run through April 1.
Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Seating begins one half-hour before the curtain rises. Box office opens one hour before shows.
Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for students.
HART Theatre is located at 185 SE Washington Ave., Hillsboro.
For more information, visit hart-theatre.org or contact the box office at 503-693-7815.