The Man Who Came to Dinner is one of the greatest American stage comedies ever known. Set in Mesalia, Ohio, around Christmas, it takes place in the desperate-for-comedy times of the 1930s. This 1939 play written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, is about a well-known, well-traveled radio personality, Sherry Whiteside, who, well, came to dinner. Except, unfortunately, that wasn’t all. After an injury makes him unable to travel, he decides to forcibly provide himself with a temporary residence in the home of his dinner hosts, Ernest Stanley and his upper middle-class Ohio family. Confined to in-home care by the star-struck town physician, Dr. Bradley, and while under the watchful eye of Nurse Preen, Sherry drives his hosts crazy. All while viciously insulting them constantly and parading an array of bizarre guests through their home.
The plot readjusts when his second-in-command, Maggie (Taylor Nicole Young), falls in love with local reporter, Bert Jefferson. At the same time Sherry realizes he might lose his trusted secretary, he is informed by Dr. Bradley that he was misdiagnosed and can leave the Stanley’s home. For the rest of the play, Sherry assembles a series of conniving schemes to keep Maggie from marrying Bert (Ryan Buehler). These schemes involve various friends of Sherry, including actress Lorraine Sheldon, actor Beverly Carlton and comedian Banjo.
The play is filled with deliberate gossip about the foibles of the rich and famous of the time throughout its three-act foundation. Yes, three. You definitely get your money’s worth with this one. It is all tremendously humorous and worthy of the time spent. The play starts out strong and continues to escalate in mayhem and comedy.
Personally, my favorite scenes of the play were ones that involved Sherry’s friends. Lorraine Sheldon, played by seriously funny Martha Harmon Pardee, is a “gorgeous” and flirtatious actress set on seducing Bert away from Maggie, after manipulative Sherry, played by boisterous Eric Fry, persuades her, of course. Pardee’s version of Lorraine, the loose-living actress with delusions of glamour, had me and everyone in the audience in tears; as well as the scene where noted British actor and playwright Beverly Carlton, played by songster Bobby Bennett, and the extremely silly Banjo, played by Seth Maisel, come to visit.
However, the actors weren’t the only talented group in this play. The play requires the services of a large backstage army to fulfill the unusual set, prop and costume requirements: a Christmas tree, a mummy case, a piano, a crate ostensibly filled with penguins, a chorus of choirboys, and a seriously beautiful living room setting. Much credit is owed to the great director, Bob Wells. I can tell a lot of love and hard work went into the creation of this play, it shines through the entire production.
Rating: 5 of 5 penguins
There is a student discount for ACC student tickets available online and in person. Additionally, in a continuing effort to make plays at Town Hall Arts Center more accessible to all, 10 value seats at $10 each are available on a first-come, first-served basis one-hour prior to each published curtain time (limit two per person).
The Town Hall Arts Center
2450 W. Main St., Littleton
The play runs through March 20th and will be followed by Smokey Joe’s Cafe beginning on April 1st.