No Strings Attached

Wooden acting all around--and not just in Stage West's brittle Puppet Boy

The whole production feels unpolished and under-produced. Except for DuBose, who sleepwalks through the role of Rodgers like he's knocked out on Ambien, the other actors double and triple roles as family members and musicians. Only veteran actor Matthew Posey makes each of his characters unique. His turn as a half-blind tent show snake-oil peddler named Dr. Hezekiah Chapel is a beaut. Too bad the show's not about him.

Wouldn't it be reasonable to expect that writing and starring in a project about one of the legendary yodelers of country music would force DuBose to learn how to yodel? Not only does he not execute that particular trick of the glottis, he sings like he has cream cheese stuck in his throat. Oh, and would somebody with a good ear please tune his guitar?

Three good actors almost, but not quite, save Richardson Theatre Centre's production of Neil Simon's Rumors from joining this week's hall of shame. Nye Cooper, Jody Rudman and Ginger Goldman drip with sweat trying to wrestle some little bit of hilarity out of Simon's godawful script about a dress-up dinner party gone wrong. They earn some respectable laughs for their physicality despite Simon's material. The genius who wrote The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park is so out of gas with his 1988 play that the biggest joke hinges on the rhyming names of characters Ben, Ken, Len and Glen. "And they're men!" Someone actually says that. And we 'uns squeezed into RTC's cramped wooden seats titter unenthusiastically. Punchlines like that, old comics would say, "are strictly from hunger."
Note to Bruce Dubose:  If you want to play Jimmie Rodgers, learn how to yodel.
Note to Bruce Dubose: If you want to play Jimmie Rodgers, learn how to yodel.

Director Regan Adair, who took over this company earlier this year, has been striving to lend RTC a more professional gloss. The impeccably designed and well-acted Dangerous Liaisons was his best work there yet. Rumors sends RTC back to its old community theater status, with cringe-making efforts by several hammy amateurs. OK, let's name names: Lynn Rutherford, Doug Fowler, Randy Pearlman. Stop mugging. Stop screaming. Stop auditioning. Please.

Any chuckles mined from this one come from the subtler work of Cooper, head cocked to one side for his character's whiplash; Goldman, as a tightly wound housewife with a voice like a rusty buzz saw; and Rudman, slyly fishing verboten cigarettes out of their box while everyone else is in major meltdown mode. To this trio of pros, a round of joy juice on the house.

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