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Theatre / Rumors

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Rumors is a 1988 play by Neil Simon. A Farce set in a residential area of New York, the plot starts when Ken and Chris Gorman arrive at the home of their friend Charley Brock, Deputy Mayor, and his wife Myra for their tenth anniversary party. However, the house is sealed shut, Myra and the servants are nowhere to be seen, and Charley has apparently tried to shoot himself (since he was high on Valium, he missed his head and only wounded himself in the ear lobe). As the other guests arrive, Ken and Chris have to maintain the charade while taking care of Charley, who has passed out in his upstairs bedroom. It all comes to a head when the police arrive.

The main characters include:

  • Ken and Chris Gorman - Ken is Charley's attorney, and his wife Chris is one too, although she mainly works on contracts and as a housewife. They are the first guests to arrive and have to break in the Brocks' home from the rear door when they find no one welcoming them.
  • Lenny (Leonard) and Claire Ganz - Charley's accountant and his wife, they have recently celebrated their own anniversary. They both belong to a golf club (or tennis club depending on the version). On their way to the party, Lenny's new BMW was struck in a hit and run that left the car devastated and caused them a delay.
  • Ernie and Cookie Cusack - Charley and Claire's analyst and his eccentric wife, a school headmistress (or cook with a television show, again, depending on the version). They both are something of a cloudcuckoolander.
  • Glenn and Cassie Cooper - Glenn is running for a seat on the Senate of the State of New York, while Cassie has found a new interest in gemology. Their relationship is strained to say the least.
  • Ben Welch and Sam Pudney - Two police officers who come to the Brocks' house in Act II.

This work contains examples of:

  • Accidental Truth: Myra asking for help from behind the cellar door seems to validate Lenny's nonsensical story.
  • The Alleged Car: Lenny's car becomes involved in a road accident, then gets further abused by Cassie.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Lenny-as-Charley's story about how much he loves his wife makes Claire melt in smiles.
  • Black Comedy: The play begins with (what appears to be) an attempted suicide, and six out of ten on-stage characters receive some kind of injury. It's all played for laughs.
  • Brick Joke: Lenny, who is starving, tries unsuccessfully to open a bag of snacks. Later, when Cookie arrives, she opens it effortlessly.
  • Butt-Monkey: Officer Pudney is this to Officer Welch.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Chris hasn't smoked in 18 months, but the situation gets to her and she tries to get a cigarette. It gets to a point where she lights up a Q-tip just to have the sensation of smoking something.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • The stolen Porsche which destroyed Lenny's car happens to be Charley's, according to Officer Welch.
    • Lenny gets annoyed with the gossip mongers at his club. The one who started the rumor about Charley having an affair with another woman happens to sell BMWs, the same type of car that Lenny just got into a wreck with.
  • The Dreaded: Officer Welch. The minute the cops show up, everyone starts panicking except the ladies (Chris and Claire are too drunk to care and Cookie seems senile), then Officer Welch starts picking apart their obvious lies.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: This happens multiple times. While everyone is running around treating injuries, checking on each other, going to the bathroom, cooking, and stalling for time, they don't have time to tell the others what the current lie is while they keep Charley's supposed suicide attempt secret. Eventually it all implodes and they all get told that Charley is shot, but okay. Then it starts all over again when they try to cover it up to the cops and Officer Welch picks apart their nonsensical story. Eventually, Lenny tells a good enough lie that Officer Welch decides to let it all go. He doesn't believe a word of it, but he's so done with the nuttiness at this point that he decides to go home to his wife.
  • The Ghost: Charley and Myra. Or rather, just Charley.
  • Genre Savvy: Officer Welch does not believe anything of what the other characters tell him.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: In-Universe: Chris justifies Mei Li's (the cook) absence by saying she's in Japan to care for her ill mother. Claire points out Mei Li's Chinese.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Officer Welch decides not to investigate the shots further because the other guests' shenanigans amused him, and he'd rather be home with his wife.
    • The majority of the characters are this. Behind each other's backs they gossip, spread rumors, and mock each other. Eventually they all get so frustrated (and some also get drunk) that they stop being subtle and outright start bickering like children. However, all of them agree to help Charley and each other and at the end of the day they're all friends.
  • Lady Drunk: Chris and Claire cope with the situation... by downing an entire bottle of alcohol in the bathroom.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The ladies point out how unusual it is that the men and women have separate thematic names while the men point out how odd it is that they all see the same doctor.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The ladies appear unusually excited about the Theme Naming of the characters.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Glenn lets slip that two shots have been fired, just when Officers Welch and Pudney had finished discussing the stolen car and were about to leave.
    • Ken accidentally fires the gun as he tries to hide it; he is concerned that if Charley actually is suicidal, that he will turn it on himself again if it's near him. The shot helps motivate the neighbors to call the police which is exactly what he doesn't want. He wants Charley to explain what happened before they jump to conclusions and to keep the police out in case it isn't necessary.
  • Occam's Razor: The simplest solution to the story is that Myra and Charley fought, Myra stormed off, Charley dismissed the servants, took too much anti-anxiety pills, wrote a suicide note that he later ripped up and threw down the toilet, and then botched a suicide because the medicine made him delirious. At the end, Lenny makes up a story that involves alcohol, a night of passion, a Spanish speaking robber that he can't understand but can recite what he said verbatim, the unlikely named servants running away without calling for help, Myra being knocked unconscious by falling down the stairs, Charley accidentally taking the anti-anxiety pills instead of pain medicine, trying and failing to write a note to his friends explain the situation, ripping it up and flushing said note so that his friends don't assume he tried committing suicide, and finally being too delirious to explain what happened and losing consciousness. The Wham Line seems to indicate that the latter story has more than a grain of truth to it.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Officer Welch is this, his fearful behaviour notwithstanding.
    • As Chris and Claire get drunker, they start snarking about how stupid their husbands' plans and lies are getting.
  • Power Crystal: Cassie believes in the healing power of crystals much to the frustration of her husband. Glenn at first asks her to hide it, but when Cassie loses the crystal down the toilet, he calmly, but somewhat sarcastically explains to everyone what the gems are supposed to do, how they should be used, and how they need to be cleaned in surprising detail showing he paid attention to his wife's eccentric hobby. Ernie sees nothing wrong with this and encourages it as it gives her comfort.
  • Red Herring: Rumors and ideas are thrown around about why Charley shot himself, why Myra isn't there, if Charley and/or Myra are having affairs, or if Glenn is having an affair with his campaign supervisor. None of it goes anywhere. It is hinted that Glenn is on the straight and narrow and the Wham Line at the end hints at what really happened to Charley.
  • Running Gag: The ladies commenting on each other's dresses. "Is it the one you wore in [month], for the [illness] fundraiser?" "No, it was in [different month], for the [different illness]!"
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Officer Welch leaves the scene not because he's done investigating, but because he's tired and done with the craziness going on down there.
  • Slapstick: Both Cusacks are on the receiving end of slapstick, off-screen, while cooking dinner.
  • Supreme Chef: Cookie manages to prepare some excellent dinner between acts. Downplayed, since the food needed just to be cooked. In the version where she's a television cook, she claims that she cooks 14 hours a day for her show, family, and neighbors and is frustrated at first that she has to cook for the party as she wanted a break from it for once.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: As the policemen are about to leave, Glenn tells them he "didn't even hear the gunshots". No gunshots were mentioned before, and this tips Officer Welch that the guests are hiding something important.
  • Theme Naming: The male guests (Ernie notwithstanding) and Officer Welch's (nick)names all end with an "en" sound, and the ladies' names all begin with "C". Lampshaded by the women.
  • Wham Line: "It's me, Myra!" It comes from the basement where Lenny, acting as Charley to the cop, claims Myra fell.
  • World of Snark: Yes, even Cookie has her moments.