If the weather and the slow arrival of spring has dampened spirits this year, the Hudson High School play just may be an antidote.
"Rumors," by award-winning playwright Neil Simon, gives a talented cast of 10 plenty to work with. The show is a collaborative directing experience for real-life collaborators Kari Heisler, HHS choir and theater director and her husband, Rico, who has choreographed and worked on several of the HHS musicals in recent years.
The Heislers had a simple reason for choosing "Rumors."
"I really wanted to go back to a comedy this year and Rico really wanted to do a show by American playwright Neil Simon. After looking at all his comedies, this was the most high school appropriate while still being hilarious," said Kari. "I loved all 10 of the characters in the show and knew our high school students would have a great time getting down all the little nuances in each character. The text is so well written and the timing needs to be impeccable so I knew it would be a challenge for the cast. I couldn't be more pleased with how it is all coming together and know our audiences will really enjoy themselves."
The story is a "who dunit and why" played for laughs. When guests show up for a tenth anniversary party, the host has a bullet hole in his earlobe and the hostess is nowhere to be found. Nobody knows what really happened and that's when the rumors start to fly. Throw in a politician, a car accident victim, a man who can't hear, guests pretending to be someone else, some cops, and the plot gets pretty interesting and funny.
The cast includes several seniors and "Rumors" will be their last time on the HHS stage.
Senior Tucker Millett has logged a lot of hours in front of audiences at HHS -- in theater, choir and as a stand-up comedian. This time out he plays Lenny Ganz, a financial advisor who seems all together at the beginning but who slowly takes on a whole different persona as the story unravels.
"He's been a fun guy to play. I think he's the most down-to-earth regular person I've played but then it is fun to see what normal people do in abnormal situations. That's what the story is about," said Millett.
Everyone in the ensemble cast is enjoying the experience. Said Millett, "Everyone is so good and we're really clicking. After being in big casts and having a couple of people really carry the show, it is nice to be in something where everybody kind of shoulders the load and everyone has their moments."
This is his first exposure to Simon and he is impressed with the caliber of the comedy in the show. "The humor really builds and the way he brings seemingly independent things together is so funny. He's a real master at what he does."
Millett will attend Loyola University in Chicago next year. He has yet to decide on a major but will continue to do stand-up and act when he can. He is the son of Angie and Tom Millett.
Ruby Johnson, a sophomore, plays Cookie Cusack, a TV chef. "She's kind of ditsy and pretty dim in a lot of ways. She gets these back spasms that inspire her to do some very funny things."
This is a departure for Johnson from her more serious role in last year's spring play as Emily in "Our Town." This is her first experience in a comedy and she is enjoying being in a light-hearted farce.
"This is so different and so much fun. I like being on stage with everyone and how fast it all moves. Timing is very important and everything happens very quickly and very crisply."
Johnson is the daughter of Catherine and Jason Barthman.
Senior Anna Head has had some experience playing eccentric characters like last year's performance as Mrs. Shin in "Music Man." This time around she is Cassie, a woman obsessed with the mystic power of crystals, something that is a cause of embarrassment for her politically ambitious husband.
"She's so much fun to play. She can be off the wall and paranoid one minute and then pretty seductive the next. I really like to get into my character. I find myself thinking their thoughts. My parents have to call me on it sometimes."
Head, too, is enjoying the fast pace of the dialogue in the show. "Somebody just gets off their lines and there is somebody else right there with something just as funny. It is a challenge but so great to play."
Head plans to attend UW-Stout and have a career in fashion design. She is the daughter of Ted and Lori Head.
Andy Leines plays Glen, Cassie's husband, a senate wanna-be who is low on intelligence but high on self-esteem.
Leines also thinks it is fun to play "a regular person who just happens to be pompous, bigoted and arrogant." He says he is enjoying doing a comedy and finds the script a challenge. "There is loads of action and movement and you have to watch out not to step on anyone's lines. It is so fun for us to do. I think it will be even more fun to watch."
This is Leines last HHS production. He plans on attending the Moorhead State University in Minnesota to study film. This will be senior Colin Eral's sixth and final show. He points out that his character, Ernie, is among the cast's more mature, as old as maybe 40 or 50. And he's a therapist, married to Cookie.
"The truth is that the others all expect him to 'get things' but he doesn't and that's been a lot of fun. This show kind of reminds me of 'Noises Off." It has that kind of frantic pace with lots of dialogue with people going in and out all the time. It's a great show to go out on."
Eral plans on attending Luther College in Decorah. He would like to be a choral director. He is the son of Christina and Kevin Leines.
The cast also includes Chris Lueneburg, Zoe Vnak, Jodean Stewart, Travis Schultz and Charlie Johnson. The stage managers for the show are Meagan Buchannan and Paige Davidson.
"Rumors" runs April 5-7 and April 12-14 at Hudson High School auditorium. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults and are available at the HHS box office Monday-Friday, 3-5:00 p.m. or by phoning (715) 377-3808. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:00 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2:00 p.m.