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 From left, Rebekah Tiefenbach Sellers plays Cookie and Nick Marinello plays Lenny in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s new production of the Neil Simon comedy “Rumors.”

From left, Rebekah Tiefenbach Sellers plays Cookie and Nick Marinello plays Lenny in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s new production of the Neil Simon comedy “Rumors.”

Photo by Dale Pegg, provided by Grosse Pointe Theatre

‘Rumors’ about Grosse Pointe Theatre are true: Neil Simon farce back onstage

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 12, 2019


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Grosse Pointe Theatre is spreading “Rumors” this season — to audiences, that is.

GPT is staging the Neil Simon farce “Rumors” from Nov. 15 to 24 in the auditorium at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods. A tony New York City anniversary party in the late 1980s descends into chaos after a series of miscommunications and misconceptions, resulting in hilarity for the audience as the planned celebration unravels into something else entirely.

Director Jerry Nehr, of Clinton Township, who has acted in and directed other GPT shows, knew he wanted to helm this one, which is GPT’s only comedy of the season.

“I had never seen the show,” he admitted. “Of course, I knew about it. I love Neil Simon. I grew up watching ‘The Odd Couple.’”

Jenni Carmichael Clark, of Royal Oak, who plays Chris Gorman, is the only cast member who was also in GPT’s first production of “Rumors” in 1993, when she played the overly dramatic character of Cassie Cooper — a role occupied by Madeline Lorio, of Clinton Township, this time. Clark said she didn’t realize how witty the show was back then, but she does now.

“I love the script,” Clark said. “This show is really funny. I didn’t get to be funny the first time.”

Ashley Trefney, of Detroit, plays Claire Ganz, Chris Gorman’s best friend. In a happy coincidence, Trefney and Clark already knew each other in real life as well, having both auditioned for GPT’s production of “42nd Street.” They’ve become friends working together on “Rumors.”

Trefney said “Rumors” was the first play she saw when she was in high school.

“I just loved it,” she said. “Just about every character has their own little quirk.”

While his fellow castmates have all been in shows before, Justin Bradley, of Grosse Pointe Woods — who plays Officer Welch — auditioned at the last minute, almost on a lark.

“I’ve never acted before,” said Bradley, who nonetheless struck Nehr as “really impressive right away.”

“When I was a kid, I always thought being a comedian would be fun,” continued Bradley, who works as an insurance company risk manager. “This play reminded me of the game Clue, which I always loved as a kid.”

Bradley now hopes to continue acting.

“It’s been such an eye-opening experience for me,” he said. “Everyone has been so encouraging.”

Clark said that with his acting background, Nehr is comfortable letting the actors try different things with their characters.

“Jerry has created an environment for us to all collaborate,” she said. “We’re all working together to create a picture for the audience.”

Trefney agreed.

“It’s been nice to have that freedom to try something new,” she said.

The cast also includes Jeffrey James Smyk, of St. Clair Shores; Nick Marinello, of St. Clair Shores; Rebekah Tiefenbach Sellers, of Harrison Township; Noah Hanahan, of Royal Oak; Jon Kent Ethridge, of Detroit; and George Farrell, of St. Clair Shores.

While the actors get the attention and applause, Nehr said the behind-the-scenes crew members deserve just as much credit. He’s especially grateful to the technical director, Gordon Richardson, of Grosse Pointe Park, for stepping in at the last minute to build sets and “save the show,” even though Richardson had already committed to work on every other show in GPT’s season as well, including building the set for season opener “Mamma Mia!” and appearing in “Guys and Dolls.”

“I think he’s got a cot in the (GPT) basement,” Nehr joked.

University Liggett School is located at 1045 Cook Road in Grosse Pointe Woods. Tickets for “Rumors” cost $21. For tickets or more information, contact GPT at (313) 881-4004 or visit