The Players last show of their 103rd season is the 1939 show "The Man Who Came to Dinner" by Moss Hart and George S.Kaufman. They set out to write a popular comedy by revealing what a number of cultural and entertainment icons of the time were really like. The play is set in Providence, RI in the weeks leading to Christmas in 2012. The famous and outlandish television wit Sheridan Whiteside, having dined at the home of the Stanleys, slips on a patch of ice on their doorstep, breaking his hip. He is attended to by Dr. Bradley, the absent-minded town physician and Miss Preen, his frantic nurse. A tumultuous six weeks of confinement follow. The Stanley living room is monopolized by the irascible invalid. When Maggie, his secretary, falls in love with the reporter, Bert Jefferson, Whiteside summons a glamorous actress, Lorraine, to win the affections of the young man. Knowing the girl's charms, Maggie turns the tables on the curmudgeon and Lorraine. And through many twists and turns the show comes to its hilarious conclusion. Director Jeff Sullivan updates the script and casts this huge show beautifully, eliciting terrific performances from his hard working 20 member cast.
Jeff's pacing of the show is marvelous and his cast delivers the laughs to an appreciative audience.The opening scene is full of frenetic energy with his cast running in and out of doors and around the stage. The gorgeous set is by Jeff and Mark Gentsch while the fantastic costumes are by Whitney Cummer.The authors based characters on the popular stars of the 1930's including Alexander Woollcott, Rosalind Russell, Noel Coward, Gertrude Lawrence and Harpo Marx. Leading this huge cast is David Crossley as Sheridan Whiteside. He commands the stage in his scenes with his enormous amount of dialogue, delivering a tour-de-force performance. David makes him a petulant child with a nasty tongue to browbeat everyoone in his way. Some of his nasty barbs include calling Maggie, a sex ridden hag and calling the nurse, a sex starved cobra. He and Kathleen Oliverio who plays Maggie Cutler, maintain and portray a bickering relationship that neither realize is based on love and respect. Both she and David handle their massive amounts of dialogue with ease and finesse. Whiteside doesn't want to lose his trusty assistant to this reporter. Their self assurance as these characters are splendid to behold. Kathleen delivers the goods as this strong character. She is extremely strong in the confrontation scene with Whiteside as Maggie calls him, "Big Lord Fauntleroy". She has been a terrific actress for many years, handling comic and dramatic roles terrifically. I first saw her back in 1981 as Blanche Dubois in "Streetcar Named Desire" when she was a student at Providence College and she delivers a stunning performance each and every time. This role of Maggie is no exception. Brava on a job well done!
Since the cast is so huge, I will only be able to mention a few of them in my review. Other comic characters include Susan Collyer as the femme fatale actress, Lorraine who tries to come between Maggie and Bert. Walter Cotter is funny as Bert, the reporter from the Providence Journal who sweeps Maggie off her feet. Roger Lemelin is marvelous as the Noel Coward type character,Beverly Carlton. He is a hoot in this scene especially when he imitates Lord Bottomley. Peter Lamberton is hilarious as Banjo, the Harpo Marx character. His comic antics are priceless as he stops the show with laughter. Nadine Harris is a hoot as Nurse Preen, a Margaret Dumont type character who is insulted all night long by Sheridan Whiteside. Hard working stage manager, Bonnie Sullivan keeps things running smoothly during the show. So for a brand new look at an old chestnut of a farce, be sure to catch "The Man Who Came to Dinner" at The Players. To join this theatre club, give Lydia a call.