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'Rumors' flies when actors take stage

The Neil Simon play is a tale of what happens when three couples try desperately to protect the reputation of their friend.

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2000


SPRING HILL -- Next week, Stage West Community Playhouse will present the story of what happens when nobody remembers who has been told what about whom.

The fun starts in Neil Simon's Rumors when three couples show up for an anniversary party at the New York City town house of the deputy mayor only to find he has been shot in the earlobe and his wife is missing.

To help his friend save face, a lawyer decides to cover up the situation, but as each new character adds their take, the show earns its title.

Director Saul Leibner said the adult comedy centers on a group trying desperately to protect the reputation of a friend.

"I'm drawn by the idea of what people will do when they are thrown into a situation beyond their control," Leibner said at a recent rehearsal.

The show's substantial living room set, Leibner said, is a perfect backdrop for the show's farcical action.

"I didn't want to stress the environment," he said. "I wanted to showcase the players."

Sam Petricone, who plays the whiplash injured Lenny, is one of four Stage West newcomers in the show.

"If you don't get the timing just right, the show falls apart," said Petricone, who recently played Roy in the Hernando County Fine Arts Council's production of The Odd Couple. "That's how it is with Neil Simon. The show has a lot of banter, but a hesitation at just the right moment is funny. It's all in the timing."

Toni Marie Starling, who made her first Stage West appearance last season in Dracula, plays Lenny's on-the-outs wife, Claire.

"Claire is really beyond sarcastic," said Starling, whose character sports a long red party dress. "She's caustic."

As new characters, rumors and innuendo are added to the mix, Starling said the plot becomes dizzying.

"I love the way all the loose ends tie together at the end," she said. "It all weaves together in the end."

Betsy Glasson, who received a nod at last year's Hami Awards for her role as Charlotte Hay in Moon Over Buffalo, plays Chris Gorman.

"I like comedies the best," said Glasson, dressed in her character's blue sequined dress and red wig. "There is such instant gratification when you say your line right and the audience laughs."

Rumors opens Thursday and continues Thursdays and weekends through June 4 at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for students 17 and younger. The theater's box office is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and one hour before each show. For information, call 683-5113.

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