Teatro Serpiente kicks off its spring season with Neil Simon's comedic romp, "Rumors." Opening night for the show is Friday (May 12), 7 p.m., at Taos High School's Little Theater, 134 Cervantes St. Performances continue through Sunday and into next weekend.
Proceeds from the show will benefit the high school's drama program, headed by Adam Overley-Black, who is also a featured member of Teatro Serpiente. "We've been looking for ways to bring money into the program and thought opening our space to some of our other local theater groups would be a great way," Overley-Black said.
"This seemed like a great time to do a comedy," said director Rich Greywolf. "Especially this one, which is all about individuals who are jockeying for power and then showing how completely out of control they are in the situation. It's full of farcical elements, like slamming doors, staircases, a drunk, a voluptuous woman -- played by a man in our show -- and mistaken identities."
The character whose mishap sets the "rumors" in motion is never seen onstage. He is fictional Deputy Mayor of New York City Charlie Brock. As the play begins, Charlie's friends -- including his attorney, his accountant and his analyst -- are on their way to his suburban home for an anniversary celebration. The attorney and his wife (also an attorney) are the first guests to arrive, and they have found their host reeling from a gunshot wound. Charlie's wife, Myra, is nowhere to be found. The bullet has only grazed his earlobe, but in these political circles, it's an "incident" that must be covered up and properly spun -- and who better than a couple of lawyers to get the spin zone dizzily spinning?
Scott Tennant and Katy Palmier play Ken and Chris Gorman, the two attorneys who discover their bloodied host crying on his bedroom floor.
"The wife wears the pants in this couple," joked Tennant. "And Katy does such a great job playing her, she really raises the bar. I'm happy to be onstage again in a comedy. It's a nice lighthearted approach after so much Shakespeare. We're really excited to play at the Little Theater; it's a perfect-size house. This feels like a resurgence for us."
"My character is a Type A personality, very uptight," Palmier said. "She's the one trying to keep it together and make sure everyone has their stories straight. So when she starts drinking because the stress is too much for her, she gets pretty loopy. The rehearsals have been so much fun. It's an awesome comedy. Come see it!"
William Hall plays aspiring state Sen. Glenn Cooper. "I get to play one of the more normal roles, as one of the couples trying to protect Brock," said Hall. "A lot of the other characters are more animated. These guys are all so talented, and I love working with them."
Cooper's upwardly mobile normalcy is challenged by the antics of his bombshell wife, Cassie, played by actor Ryan Maestas.
"It was originally written as a straight couple, but we improved on it," Maestas quipped. "Cassie is a character who oozes sex appeal, but she's very insecure. She's like an exaggerated version of my own insecurities, and it's fun to play with that. I'm looking forward to getting more involved with drag, and there aren't a whole lot of outlets for that here. Channeling it into theater, which is something I've always loved to do, is a very comfortable way to express it."
Overley-Black and Serena Jade Smith play Lenny and Claire Ganz. "Lenny is Charlie's accountant," said Overley-Black. "He's very sarcastic and condescending, and so is his wife. We're the ones who have snide comments about all our friends."
"Claire is a trophy wife who lives for gossip," Smith said. "She and her husband are terrible people who can't stand each other and yet are so similar they keep being drawn together. I have been having an absolute blast playing this character with such an amazing group of people. I'm really excited for everyone to see the show and enjoy it as much as we do."
Jim Sanborn and Gina Gargone play Ernie and Cookie Cusack. "My character, Ernie, is Charlie's shrink," Sanborn said. "He's very interested in trying to figure out what's going on, but he's really clueless. I'm happy that we're fundraising for [Taos High School's drama program]. Adam's doing a fantastic job with the students there."
"Out of all the couples, I think Ernie and Cookie are the most simpatico," Gargone said. "It feels like they've been together a long time. We're having so much fun at rehearsal. We haven't done a classic farce since 'Moon Over Buffalo.' It's something all of us enjoy."
Mary Walker and Helen Rynaski round out the cast as police officers Welch and Pudney, who arrive at the scene after yet another mysterious gunshot. "It's the last tour of the night, and we just want to get home," Walker said. "We're definitely not looking for this much trouble from a bunch of really strange rich people." Rynaski described her character as an "old jaded cop, putting in her time. She's seen it all -- or thought she had - until she walked into this place!"
"Come out and see it," Greywolf said. "People need to laugh, and this is by far the funniest show we've done in a long time."
Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday (May 12-14) and Thursday (May 18) through May 20. A special Mother's Day matinee is planned Sunday (May 14) at 2 p.m., in addition to the evening show.
Tickets are $15 and $12 for students, educators and seniors. For advance tickets and information, call (575) 737-8574 or visit teatroserpiente.com.