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Honesty is the Best Policy:

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“Rumors” by Neil Simon
Big Dawg Productions
Cape Fear Playhouse • 613 Castle Street
3/24-4/3, Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m. • Sun, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $10-$18 •

Cast members (l. to r.) Brandy Jones, Pamela Grier and Kevin Wilson in ‘Rumors.’ Courtesy photo.

One day when I was at the tender age of five, my parents came home with a brand new car. It was an aquamarine Buick, driven directly from the lot to our driveway. Like any child, I thought I was entitled to ownership of everything my parents had. So, with a rock, I branded it in white, jagged scratches. I’d gotten as far as “BETHA” before my mom came around the corner and caught me.

Naturally, I advised, “It wasn’t me!” And that was the first lie I remember telling. Despite my parents’ advice, I had to learn the hard way through my teenage years that lying is a guaranteed grounding, while honesty would likely get me out of the trouble I caused. As with any valuable life lesson, I eventually grew up and realized that candor is a virtue.

Neil Simon’s “Rumors” explores the moral fully and apparently successfully, given its long-standing run of over 500 productions. Written in 1988, the show opens to four aristocratic couples arriving at a 10th wedding anniversary party. The occasion is a celebration for the deputy mayor of New York City and his wife. However, quickly the party goes awry, as folks notice the servants and hostess are all missing, and the mayor has shot himself in the head.

Given their swanky and stuffy status, the group decides there’s only one thing to do: lie. Their goal is to keep the night’s events hush-hush, especially in the face of police and media. The trouble follows when no character can keep track of who’s said what about whom, and the rumors take flight.

“Rumors” is a farce, for sure, and pokes fun at the quirks of society. Big Dawg Productions presents the comedy, which opens this weekend at its headquarters on Castle Street, Cape Fear Playhouse. Attendees can expect a good laugh as director Tony Moore takes on the playwright’s “fast-paced storylines, out-of-this-world plots, unique characters and side-splitting one-liners.”

Moore explains the characters in “Rumors” possess a certain idiosyncrasy that Simon exploits to create intense satire. Each member of the cast has a definitive opposite to play against.

“You have the neurotic character, countered by the take-charge character,” Moore says. “The ultra-sensitive and naive characters balanced by the not-so-nice and know-it-all characters. The mix of people at the party is very interesting and dynamic. [It] proves to be a perfect formula for this type of comedy.”

Moore says the play keeps viewers guessing. Even though he knows exactly what will happen, he still finds it a riotous romp. “The characters are all hysterical in their own right, and the actors have worked very hard to bring them to life,” he asserts. “There have been numerous rehearsals where I have had to tell them to stop and take a break because tears were rolling down my face from laughing so hard.”

The comic cast consists of Kevin Wilson and Brandy Jones, who play the first couple to arrive at the party. Chris Maxie and Pamela Grier pair off as the competitive couple, Lenny and Claire Ganz. The four other guests include Brandon Leatherman, Rhoda Gary, Daniel Marks and Amanda Young. The investigators on the scene are played by faux sleuths Richard Eisen and Erika Hendrix.

“The caliber of talent among these actors is unbelievable,” Moore compliments. “They have that natural comedic ability, which is exactly what I was looking for.”

Aside from a rollicking night out, “Rumors” offers its audience a flamboyant display of the age-old adage: “Honesty is the best policy.” “This play exponentially expounds on the need to tell the truth up front,” Moore says, “no matter how scary, no matter what the cost.”

The show opens March 24th and runs through April 3rd.

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