A scene from The Man Who Came To Dinner
The Man Who Came to Dinner
By Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
Directed by J.R. Stuart
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2015 Kate Barry. All rights reserved
Don’t you hate it when guests stay way too long? Isn’t it a nuisance how they get in the way and gum up the works? Sure you don’t want to hurt their feelings but after a while, enough is enough! The Man Who Came to Dinner at Clarksville Little Theater focuses on this very problem. This classic comedy, which made a star out of Monty Woolley, has become a popular favorite for local community theaters and with comedic situations that are still relevant, it’s easy to see why.
As the eponymous radio star Sheridan Whiteside, who suffers an injury while visiting the home of the Stanley family, Michael Gaither is a force to be reckoned with as he rolls around the stage in his wheelchair and slings demands left and right. Gaither spends nearly the entire production on stage and never skips a beat. He brings forth a no-nonsense yet self-involved quality to the character that is evident through his treatment of his nurse, doctor and personal assistant. Gaither takes Whiteside’s arrogance and flips it on its side once he realizes his assistant, Maggie may leave his side, effectively channeling the empty-nest desperation of a father and child. Gaither is energetically on point as the moody and irrepressible Whiteside, but he truly shines as he entertains the colorful cast of character that parade through the household he’s invaded.
Jennifer Poliskie plays Maggie, Whiteside’s personal assistant. Poised and confident and constantly shushing Whiteside’s complaints while managing his agenda, Poliskie provides a match of wits to Gaither’s cranky old man. Tracy Bond Bird plays the overworked nurse Miss Preen. As the bullied nurse, Bird gives great reaction to Gaither’s beck and call as she hustles in and out of scene. With that in mind, her dramatic departure from her torturous patient lacked a certain build up throughout the play yet she she’s deserves applause for Miss Preen’s bold confrontation. Jack Francis has some great moments as the well-intentioned Dr. Bradley. Francis displays the right amount of silliness as the doctor who is never in the right place at the right time.
This production is ripe with delightful performances from local character actor talent. Jeff Ketterman plays a total of three characters including a convict, a producer of Whiteside’s radio show, as well as Banjo. Ketterman has put careful thought into each of these character’s mannerisms and personalities, no matter how briefly they are on stage. As Banjo, Ketterman displays his knack for timing with his giant horn, gravelly voice and shiny black and white zoot suit shoes. With this character, Ketterman sways toward an absurd perversion and it pays off. Carrie Ketterman is the glamorous actress Lorraine Sheldon. For Ms. Ketterman it isn’t too difficult to channel her inner diva as she sparkles just as much as the jewels on her costumes. Andrew McGIll is a match for Ketterman’s Lorraine as actor and playwright Beverly Carlton. McGill is flashy and flamboyant in his opinionated quips as he saunters the stage in Whiteside’s presence.
And then of course there are the Stanleys. At first, the sweet and unsuspecting family approach Whiteside with star struck idealism, but this opinion slowly changes through the course of the play. Neal Brewer and Abby Braune portray siblings June and Richard as wide-eyed innocents, blindly following Whiteside’s advice. Brewer and Braune’s performances channel those of a by-gone era when you really could believe anything a famous person told you. Jane Burke was a joy to watch as the creepy aunt from the attic with a secret, Harriet. As Mr. and Mrs. Stanley, Charlotte Dubois and Tom Pettey put forward all efforts to keep their household together in the presence of a domineering celebrity. Pettey is strong in his anger and determination to return to normalcy while Dubois is sweet and charming as she strives to be the perfect hostess.
Hart and Kaufman wrote this play in the 1930’s and I have to admit a lot of the references were unfamiliar to me. Regardless of whether you pick up on each and every post Depression era cultural reference or if you have never heard of Alexander Woollcott, he critic who was the inspiration for Sheridan Whiteside, I think we can all agree that happenings in this play are silly and can be enjoyed by all.
One more note: to the gentleman who was sitting directly in front of me, please turn off your cell phone. The theater is small so taking a phone call was disruptive to the actors on stage and your fellow audience members.
The Man Who Came to Dinner
September 11-13, 17-19 @ 8:00pm
Clarksville Little Theater
301 E. Montgomery Ave
Clarksville, IN 47129
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for Leo Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!