In a nostalgic nod to their first production, You Can’t Take It With You, Georgia Ensemble Theatre opens its 20th Anniversary Season with another Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman comedy – The Man Who Came To Dinner. The theater couldn’t have picked a better play to open with than this one. Funny, enjoyable and perfectly cast, all aspects of the production have gelled together to create a hit for the theater.
Originally produced in 1939, the play itself doesn’t show its age as some shows tend to do. It is largely due to the slapstick humor and sharp wit of the dialogue, which mostly comes from the acerbic critic and radio star Mr. Sheridan Whiteside (Allan Edwards), who, along with a few other characters, was based on a real-life celebrity of the day.
After slipping on ice outside the Stanley home, Mr. Whiteside has been recuperating in their home. His demands, though, push Mr. Stanley (Frank Roberts) too far, but when his secretary Maggie Cutler (Wendy Melkonian) falls in love with a local newspaper man, Bert Jefferson, (Jacob York), he concocts a plan to break them up. Doing so unleashes all hilarity as a series of comedic antics ensues.
Filled with eccentric characters, the play allows each character to have a moment to “steal the show” with the curmudgeon Whiteside as the focal point. As the doctor, Jim Gray creates a character that works incredibly well in this absent-minded role. Likewise, Kathy Kuczka shines as Nurse Preen. Both her character and Jim Daily’s Banjo, with Marx Brothers antics, create two of the most memorable roles in the show.
Edwards’ Whiteside is captivating. From his body language to his tone, his rudeness and quips are delivered well and utterly hilarious. As his secretary Maggie, Melkonian presents a delightful equal to Whiteside, whose soft touch acts as a counter balance to his caustic nature.
Playing the vixen and pawn to Whiteside’s attempt to foil the relationship between Maggie and Bert, Shannon Eubanks, as Lorraine Sheldon, gives a charming and hilarious performance. Her exaggerated accent and antics are thoroughly entertaining.
Under the direction of Robert J. Farley, not enough can be said of this cast and the incredible chemistry that they display. The Man Who Came to Dinner plays at The Roswell Cultural Arts Center through September 23, 2012. For tickets and more information, visit the theater’s website or call 770-641-1260. The show’s runtime is about two and a half hours plus a 15 minute intermission.
– Kenny Norton