Have You Heard the Rumors?

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The Community Synagogue Theater Company returns with Neil Simon’s famous farce

The Rumors team

Eight friends gather for a party, only to find the host has shot himself. It may not sound like the setup for a comedy, but it’s the basis of Neil Simon’s celebrated farce Rumors, March 30 through April 2 at the Sands Point Preserve’s Club G, by The Community Synagogue Theater Company.

Rumors, which tracks four couples’ chaotic attempts to cover up the dinner party turned crime scene, is a staple of theater groups. Decades of productions have had audiences in stitches. The upcoming production by The Community Synagogue Theater Company (TCSTC) promises to be a crowd-pleaser.

Melissa Chernosky, Spencer Cohen, Jeff Grossman, Amanda Kowalczuk, Lauren Moschetta, Caryn Ronis, Joel Ronis, Michael John Ruggiere, Michael Schiffer, and Lori Zlotoff share the blackbox theater where Rumors will be performed. Broadway veteran Tom Rocco directs the cast through the twists and turns of the piece, the eighth production staged by TCSTC. Many of the cast, including executive producer Lori, are Community Synagogue members, but others work with the theater company purely for its own merits. And merits it certainly has—not only have past performances been stellarly received, but also the “camaraderie” that Tom cites as the most valuable part of the theater company is clear to see.

The professionalism of rehearsals is tempered by birthday celebrations, evening meetups for bar karaoke, and a powerful sense of community among the cast and crew. Longtime member Melissa calls it simply her “theater family,” noting that “When I’m not doing this, there’s something missing.” Caryn, a cast member of every TCSTC production to date, agrees that the company is “the most fun, the most creative, the most wonderful way to spend creative energy.”

Left to right: Amanda Kowalczuk, Michael John Ruggiere, Spencer Cohen, Lori Zlotoff, Caryn Ronis.

That creative energy is on full display in Rumors. The demands of the script include not only strong comedic timing and commitment to onstage havoc, but also that the cast is fully in step with each other. In the quick pace of a farce, slip-ups are easy, but even one can threaten the action moving forward as it needs to. The remarkable unity of the cast prevents that from being too much of an issue. Lori calls the process “a testament to the devotion of the company and the loyalty of our production staff.” Although her work both onstage and off to keep the production running is challenging, she’s comforted by knowing “every person’s contribution lifts up the next person, and so we carry each other in a way that feels really supportive and supports community.”

To those who’ve never performed in a farce, TCSTC might make it look easy. However, putting it all together is complex and requires a diligent production effort. Jane Ronis, who has stage managed professionally for decades, runs a team that includes Benjamin Hegarty as technical director and lighting and set designer, Lydia Gladstone as costume designer, and Ayla Chernosky as propmaster. Their efforts means the production is “humming along,” says Lori, adding that “I don’t have to worry” about the backstage work.

Stage manager Jane Ronis and director Tom Rocco.

Helming the project is its own challenging task, but one Tom loves. He calls directing the company, which he’s done five times, “so much fun.” The cast, he says, is “a group of thinkers who approach their roles with a strong desire to get across the humor and the feeling of this piece.” Watching the company go through their paces in rehearsal is enough to prove it.

Rumors plays at Club G 7:00 on March 30, 7:00 on April 1, and a 2:00 matinee on April 2. Tickets are $35.00 each, purchasable through the Community Synagogue website (commsyn.org/TCS-Theater-Company).

-Submitted by The Community Synagogue

Left to right: Jeff Grossman, Lauren Moschetta, Melissa Chernosky, Michael Schiffer, Joel Ronis. (Contributed Photos)