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The Man Who Came to Dinner

a Comedy
CATEGORY :
by Moss Hart & George S. Kaufman

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 4396

SHOWING : September 06, 2012 - September 23, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Two decades ago, Georgia Ensemble Theatre (GET) opened its doors with the classic Kaufman & Hart comedy, You Can’t Take It With You. Now, 20 years and more than 100 productions later, we bring back another work from this great comedy writing duo as we launch our Emerald Anniversary with one of the most epic and clever American comedies to ever take the stage. The Man Who Came To Dinner will be brought to you with a cast of 25 actors, including GET favorites from last season’s hit show, Becky’s New Car: Wendy Melkonian and Allan Edwards. You’ll meet the irascible arts critic Sheridan Whiteside as he pays a visit to the Stanley household where Marx Brothers-like madness ensues with secretaries, ex-cons, cockroaches and penguins!


CAST & CREW LIST
Banjo Jim Dailey
Beverly Carlton Larry Davis
Sheridan Whiteside Allan Edwards
Lorraine Sheldon Shannon Eubanks
Nurse Preen Kathy Kuczka
John Matt Lewis
Maggie Cuttler Wendy Melkonian
Bert Jefferson Jacob York
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REVIEWS

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Life-Sized
by Dedalus
Thursday, December 20, 2012
3.5
Sheridan Whiteside can best be described as a charming bull in a china shop. He has built his reputation on his acerbic wit, his casual put-downs of the pompous and over-inflated, and his friendships with the rich and famous and powerful. In other words, he needs to be larger than life, he needs to bulldoze his way through lesser mortals' existences and to bask in the gloriousness of being Sheridan Whiteside. In Georgia Ensemble�s (mostly) entertaining staging of Kaufman and Hart�s 1939 �The Man Who Came to Dinner,� we meet a cranky, blustery, past-the-point-of-no-return obnoxious Whiteside, who seems to have left most of his charm off stage. In other words, he is less-than larger-than-life, which, I suppose, makes him life-sized. This is a distraction, but not a fatal one.

It is December of 1939, and erstwhile critic, writer, and radio personality Sheridan Whiteside finds himself the unwilling guest of the Stanley household of Mesalia OH. A close encounter with a patch of ice has reduced him to a too-broken-to-travel state. As he semi-heals, his acidic personality begns to infect everyone around him for good and ill. In between visits from his famous friends, he manages to upturn the lives of everyone in Mesalia, and some folks aren�t too happy about it. Take ingénue June Stanley (a radiant Corinna Reselle) � her secret romance with a young union organizer is just the right choice to send businessman father �Mr. Stanley� (Frank Roberts, oozing pomposity out of every pore) into apoplexy. Son Richard (Alexander McCurley) is a burgeoning photographer who is encouraged in his artistic pursuits.

But, since Whiteside cannot abide losing his ever-loyal �gal Friday� Maggie (a marvelous-as-usual Wendy Melkonian) to marriage with local reporter (and talented playwright) Bert Jefferson (Jacob York), all sorts of machinations are hatched and plotted and sorta-semi foiled. Add to the mix a Hollywood comic (Banjo), a British playwright and composer (Beverly Carlton), a randy and ambitious actress (Lorraine Sheldon), an absent-minded professor (Professor Metz), an almost-competent doctor, a battle-axe nurse, and a crate full of penguins (don�t ask), and Christmas in Mesalia will not be all silver bells and mistletoe.

Kaufman and Hart based almost all these characters on real people (Whiteside = Alexander Woollcott, Banjo = Harpo Marx, Beverly = Noel Coward, Lorraine = Gertrude Lawrence, etc etc etc), and throughout, names are dropped like rose petals at a wedding, so I was glad that G.E.T. put up a �Who�s Who� lobby display letting us in on all the �top names� in the 1939 news cycle.

But, my chief problem with this production was the Whiteside of Allan Edwards. Mr. Edwards gives us a grumbling, obnoxious, downright mean Whiteside, which is expected (and good), but he has none of the charm or wit that would tell us WHY he�s so popular, WHY Maggie would even consider turning down a marriage proposal to stay with him. Whiteside is supposed to keep his most venomous attacks to the pompous, hypocritical, downright stupid people he encounters, and temper his attacks with affection for those closest to him. But, Mr. Edwards treats his closest friends as if they were insignificant and a pox on his life.

Not to be blunt, but this leaves a hole in the center of the play that, fortunately, for most of the time is mitigated (and alleviated) by the eccentricity of everyone who comes into his orbit. I absolutely loved Jim Dailey�s Banjo and Shannon Eubanks' Lorraine, and all the local residents and comers-and-goers positively drip personality and character. So, I suppose, my less-than-enthusiastic response to Mr. Edwards didn�t really hurt my enjoyment of the play � it only made it seem longer than necessary.

Jamie Bullins has built a set that perfectly captures the character of the Stanleys and the period, and Light Designer Mike Post has bathed it all in a nostalgic warmth that nicely belied the cold winter winds blowing outside. If I have one complaint about the design, it�s in the costume for Beverly Carlton (and a too-young actor filling it). Yes, the yachtsman�s duds fully suggest Noel Coward, but the point that he was travelling in winter far from any large body of water seems to have been missed. A winter coat and evening wear, or period �travelling clothes� would have been far more appropriate.

Still, this is a (mostly) wonderful mounting of a classic community theatre warhorse, filled with eccentric and marvelous performances, and studded liberally with laughs and smiles. It�s very evident why this piece is still popular after over seventy years, and very evident why it will still be popular for decades to come.

Now, if we could give Mr. Edwards a transfusion of charm, it would be downright perfect.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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