Funky Little Theatre players shine in Neil Simon’s classic farce

An elegant dinner party goes amiss in the Neil Simon classic “Rumors,” playing at the Funky Little Theatre Company in Colorado Springs through Feb. 9.

Now in its fifth season, and its first in its new bigger-and-better west-side venue,  Funky had the space it needed to mount this larger show. The 10-person cast is a well-synched ensemble of mostly veteran actors who really deliver on Simon’s vision. The show is fast-paced and progressive comic mayhem, long on laughter and full of Simon’s trademark New York wit.

Set in an upscale New York suburb in 1989, four couples have been invited to an elegant dinner party to celebrate the hosts’ 10th wedding anniversary, but things soon go horrifically (and humorously) wrong.

As the play opens, the first arrivals have only just discovered their host, who happens to be the deputy mayor of New York, has a self-inflicted but superficial gunshot wound to his ear. Ken (Nickolas Remy) and Chris (Kim Bennett) Gorman, the deputy mayor’s lawyer and his wife are scurrying to conceal the mysterious mishap, concocting a story they think they can sell to the pending arrivals.

As the colorful collection of couples begin to fill the small stage, the Gormans’ “story” gets garbled, confusion ensues and the audience is treated to comic calamity as their facades of class and decorum wane.

Generally well-cast and executed, the four couples spar with precision, managing the small stage with grace and careful choreography. One by one, they learn and then conceal the truth about their host, with all of them ultimately complicit in presenting a tall tale for the evening’s final uninvited guests: the police.

Returning to Funky’s stage is stand-out Joanne Koehler, who outshines her purple satin evening gown as Claire Ganz, the quintessential social climber who never breaks character in word, look or gesture. Her husband, Lenny, played with perfectly poised restraint by Dylan McClintock, seems the hapless lapdog until he saves the group’s collective ass by show’s end in a startling monologue.

Glenn and Cassie Cooper arrive to the party in full combat mode, with Dave Gallo playing the aspiring politician who must endure an indulgent wife’s insecurities.  Danine Schell is the perfect neurotic in her garish dress, stroking a crystal and obsessing over her husband’s alleged indiscretions. As Ernie Cusack, Patrick Neill is seemingly oblivious to his wacky wife Cookie, played with ditzy flamboyance by Ashley Crockett. She’s a hoot, tossing out goofy one-liners perfectly timed in the throes of group panic.

The cast has a few less-seasoned actors and a handful of awkward moments, but the rest of the cast more than compensate in portraying Simon’s rich characters. And the Funky’s intimate space enables the audience to feel like dinner-party guests themselves.

“Rumors” may be one of Simon’s lesser-known plays, but his take on the farce is a solid addition to his theatrical legacy. The production at the Funky has a few shining stars playing it big on a small stage, making this set of “Rumors” well worth the trip.