Community Theatre at Woodbury (CTAW-: Excitement and anticipation attended the opening night of Neil Simon’s “Rumors” at the Community Theatre At Woodbury. Excitement seemed to center on the fact that the house was packed and theatergoers chatted animatedly with those nearby. As the audience grew the greetings grew more and more enthusiastic. The anticipation was palpable since two theatrical forces were present under one roof. The actors and members of Phoenix Stage Company and those associated with the workings of CTAW were brought together because of the magnetic Ed Bassett, artistic director at Phoenix and now guest director at CTAW.

Everyone in the audience knew that this was going to be a special night and so it was. Bassett is a master when it comes to bringing out the best in an actor. Evidence of this was clearly visible from the fine performances delivered by this community theater cast. Each actor had at least one spotlight moment and each one was rewarded with a hearty round of applause.

Considering that this comic farce is by Neil Simon, it’s almost impossible to imagine it not being a success. It is one of Simon’s funniest and most performed plays. Most appropriately titled because so much of what goes on this play is based on unsubstantiated rumors. It’s as funny as the old telephone game. One person passes on a rumor and it spreads fast. The premise, however, is that couples arrive at Charley’s and Myra’s 10th anniversary dinner party only to discover that the host and hostess are not around, nor are any caterers or help there.

Because this is an upscale gathering of social elites, when Ken discovers that Charley, the Deputy Mayor of New York, has been shot, perhaps a suicide attempt, and is upstairs bleeding, Ken is afraid that a scandal will unfold. He advises his wife Chris not to share any details with any of the other prominent guests. As guests become suspicious and stories start to change, confusion and comedy come together for a most entertaining evening.

What works well in this production are the individual performances. Michael C. Accuosti is a popular actor in the community theater scene. In this production his funniest moments as Ken are when he cannot hear. He nails each misunderstood word and underlines the comedy in this farce. What doesn’t work so well is putting a towel over his ears. The towel never sits right on his head and proves to be a distraction. His performance however is solid.

Missy Cowan as Ken’s wife Chris delivers an excellent characterization. Cowan embodies sophistication and is yet real enough to swear, beg for a cigarette (though she just quit) and overall behave as a frenzied wife. Making up excuses is part of the script, but seems natural for this charming actress.

Roger Grace as Lenny has some of the funniest lines in the play and he lands each one as a bull’s-eye. Consistently comic, this actor works the house well. What is best for Grace is his incredible monologue where he becomes totally uninhibited and lets the fun fly far and wide. Lana Peck as Lenny’s wife Claire is a perfect fit for the role. Classy but chatty and always in the moment whether tossing a sarcastic glance her husband’s way or afraid to answer the phone.

Best at answering the dreaded phone calls is Terence McDonald as Ernie. His happy elongated “Ha-low” never fails to engage the audience. What doesn’t work so well is that considering Ernie has badly burned his hands, a little cloth over his hands and sometimes nothing at all, doesn’t milk the moment that begs to be milked. Liz Jaffin as Cookie, Ernie’s wife, takes on the physical aspect of comedy as she crawls along the floor looking for earrings or bending low when her back gives out.

Jack McKeever plays Glenn, a young ambitious candidate for the State Senate. His actor’s instincts are sharp. He looks, listens, and behaves naturally. What works best is when his wife Cassie seeks revenge for his cheating ways and he looks most vulnerable. Dana Comerford Bruton as sexy Cassie has perfect timing when it comes to sending sarcastic barbs her husband’s way. Rounding off the production are Tony Bededetti and Jacob Rogotzke as police officers.

The set features furniture that one would find in an upper class home and includes the mandatory doors for a farce. This production plays through Jan.19. Box office: 203-695-710.

Joanne Greco Rochman a founder and former member of the Connecticut Critics Circle is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: