Image provided by Wilhelm Scholz. Top: Rumors’ cast poses onstage.
Rumors reveals the ugliness of the rich, while teaching lessons
By Renée Diop
Rumors is a tale of passive-aggressive socialites, too engrossed in their own reputations for the capacity to empathize with their so-called “friends”. Despite this, the consistent comedy and beats of chemistry between the cast make their presence onstage fascinating, rather than tiresome.
The play is character-driven, in the most literal sense, as the characters make up the plot as they go along. The best moments were simply watching them bounce off one another, presenting memorized lines as if they’d just come to mind. Pacing, especially in a comedy, is difficult to pull off, making these actors worthy of applause. Lenny Ganz, played by Wilhelm Scholz, was especially good at this, with a monologue in the second act that felt impromptu at times. One thing that was impromptu was his shoe flinging off the stage as he rose it to enact a kick, an unplanned highlight of the show that was sure to receive a burst of laughter.
The costumes and set were another highlight, defining the time period and elevating every scene. Claire Ganz, Cassie Cooper, and Cookie Cusack had the best outfits of the night, loosely fitting flapper dresses with glittering jewels. The men’s shirts and ties becoming increasingly unkempt throughout the night was an exceptional detail, as was the slight tilt of the paintings on the wall. The elegant house slightly deteriorates over the course of the play, plates discarded on the table, random objects strewn about. This serves as a parallel to the gracelessness of the characters, who become more savage and careless with every passing hour.
Despite the professionalism and talent of the actors, there were some moments that broke the impeccable atmosphere. The detective’s mention of Disney+ was startling, as the technology, language, and dress would indicate a more dated time period. Rather than funny, this joke felt out of place. And, to no fault of their own, the masks that the actors were wearing made it challenging to understand their enunciation, particularly frustrating during their narration of important plot points.
Hints of a theme were indicated in the play, but left for the audience to interpret. From the very beginning, mystery overshadowed the truth, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat. But with only a taste of what truly happened at the very end, the plot demands too much of the viewers to fill in the missing pieces. With the addition of a third act, the characters would be given time to reflect upon their choices. But almost every plot thread was left untied by the end, leaving the audience with some dissatisfaction.
What can be concluded, however, is that Rumors makes a mockery of the absurdities of the rich. It reveals the ugliness behind the biggest houses, fastest cars, and prettiest dresses. The materialism and narcissism that the characters exhibit is a warning for every viewer—that greed can cloud our judgement, and eliminate our ability to empathize. This is especially relevant in modern day, as we become increasingly preoccupied with our images on social media to consider the lives of those around us. One thing anyone watching this play can take home is that the true definition of friendship is incompatible with narcissism. Respect is mutual, and friendship can only sustain itself so as long as both parties appreciate and care for one another equally.
Rumors: A chaotic must-watch
By Srihitha Pallapothula
Cream-colored curtains part to reveal the masterpiece that is Rumors, a play defined by themes of wealth and power. Central to the narrative are four socialite couples—the Coopers, the Ganzs, the Cusacks, and the Gormans, who visit the Brocks’ house for the couple’s 10th anniversary party. The play captures their desperate attempts to sweep the supposed suicide attempt of Charlie Brock and disappearance of his wife Myra under the rug.
From the start, the world of Rumors compels audience members with the hallmarks of a wealthy, upper-class lifestyle: a mini bar, expensive paintings, eccentric orange doors, velvet couches, and exquisite snacks. The set is well-crafted. Its glamor, when juxtaposed with the ensuing chaos—screaming couples, blood, fainting, back spasms, and more blood—reminds audiences that what appears to be beautiful on the outside is rarely as desirable upon deeper examination. This theme plays into the couples’ interactions with each other. Their excellently designed costumes, stiff suits and sparkling dresses, cement the image of perfection in the viewers’ minds. Yet, as the play continues, this facade is stripped away and problems begin bubbling to the surface, reminding viewers that everyone, no matter how rich and seemingly happy, is at the end of the day, human.
The humor is one of the biggest highlights of the play. From sugar-coated insults to revelations that are so stupid it’s hard not to laugh, Rumors capitalizes on the quirks of its rich, self-obsessed characters. However, the humor plays a more significant role than just making the audience laugh. It exists to show how in times of trouble, when everything is going wrong, we reach for joy, lightness. We use humor as a coping mechanism, a mask to hide our true emotions. Joking about pain is a universally-shared experience, and it’s what makes Rumors so powerful: everyone, despite their background, can connect to the all-too-human desire to go to extreme, humor-laden lengths to maintain their personal facades. The humor’s only fault is that at times, it’s too steeped in the 1970s world to make a mark on its 2022 audience. The cast’s attempts to modernize some of the jokes, with a memorable reference to the streaming platform Disney+, feel jarring when coming from traditional socialites. Despite this, the humor charms the audience, lingering with viewers long after the play is over.
The acting in Rumors is captivating. Standout performers include senior Wilhelm Scholz, who dynamically plays Lenny Ganz, and whose monologue at the end skillfully captures the tension and excitement of the moment, making it a delight to watch. Senior Leilani Letke—as Claire Ganz—perfectly delivers her chirpy, sarcastic insults; her character feels the most alive. Despite the brilliant acting, the play feels drawn out and monotonous at times because performers only exhibit one emotion: panic. Though the introduction of new characters is refreshing, having performers vary their expressions and showcase new, nuanced parts of their characters’ personalities would keep the audience engaged throughout. Additionally, the ending feels confusing: after Lenny creates a seemingly implausible story for the police, the missing Myra Brock knocks on the basement door, and the play concludes. It was only after asking others that I realized that part of Lenny’s story included Myra being locked in the basement, meaning that Lenny’s story was somehow true. The ending requires a bit more thought than the audience is comfortable with and could be improved with straightforwardness. With a little more nuance and clarity, Rumors has the potential to shine.
Delivering a memorable play during a global pandemic is no easy feat, one that the cast of Rumors pulls off with minor drawbacks. At times, it’s difficult to hear characters’ dialogues through their masks. Additionally, watching the performers pretending to eat without the food ever touching their lips is unconvincing, yet understandable considering current safety precautions. Yet these minor inconveniences don’t seriously detract from the play, instead contextualizing it during the current time period. One notable workaround to masks is the clever use of clear ones, which enables the audience to see performers’ faces and expressions, which is crucial to the performing arts.
Ultimately, Rumors is a chaotic must-watch, a living, breathing story that demands to be seen.