Oscar E Moore

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The Man Who Came to Dinner – Off B’way at St. Clements

December 5th, 2011 by Oscar E Moore

The Peccadillo Theater Company has to be applauded for attempting to revive this dated albeit classic 1939 The Man Who Came to Dinner and employing twenty three actors in the process which doesn’t include all of the creative staff needed to try and breathe some life into this very old fashioned relic and out of fashion comedy written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.

But all the period music, costumes, wigs, elaborate setting and fine acting can’t put this comedy back together again.

One can only imagine the fun that Kaufman & Hart had coming up with the zany plot that includes references to their many show biz friends and acquaintances and fashioning a cavalcade of characters after them – especially the lead based on Alexander Woolcott – herein becoming the irascible critic, wit, lecturer and radio personality Sheridan Whiteside portrayed by Jim Brochu in a tailor made part but in a less than commanding manner.  Perhaps he was feeling under the weather during the preview performance that I saw as he was coughing a lot.  But this usually excellent actor who was brilliant in Zero Hour fails to deliver the Christmas present of a performance that one expects.

It’s a splashy role, this Sheridan Whiteside, a man who doesn’t mince words and has a thousand insults on the tip of his tongue just waiting for any victim to dare to cross his path.

A man who agrees to come to dinner at the home of Ernest and June Stanley in Masalia, Ohio on his way to Hollywood – where he slips on some ice on their front porch which lands him in a wheelchair recuperating from a fractured hip and overtaking their home, telephone, staff and lives in the process making for what should be a night of high comedy in three acts.

Despite the strong performances of many of the cast, this production directed by Dan Wackerman doesn’t quite gel as well as their previous revival of Room Service which I loved.

Scott Evans was in that production playing approximately the same type of “Juvenile” role.  Does this guy never age?  He is fast becoming the Robert Cummings of period revivals and he is excellent as Richard Stanley who dreams of becoming a photographer.

As the put upon Nurse Preen, Kristine Nevins adds some deft comic touches to her characterization.  Amy Landon as Maggie Cutler, Sheridan’s secretary holds down the fort with her grounded and honest portrayal as a woman who has finally found love.  Falling for the local news writer and author of a play – Bert Jefferson (a fine Jay Stratton looking very much like Jimmy Stewart) that causes all sorts of twists and troubles for her.  Especially when Sherry wants to keep her from leaving him and giving the play to the famous actress Lorraine Sheldon (Cady Huffman, strutting her comedic skills in some glamorous duds designed by Amy Pedigo-Otto).

Not to be out done and stealing the thunder from one and all is the brilliant take on a Douglas Fairbanks/Noel Coward type actor – Beverly Carlton – the incredible John Windsor-Cunningham whose performance and rendition of Cole Porter’s “What Am I To Do?” – should keep St. Clements sold out until Dec 18th.

Kristin Griffith as the mysterious Harriet Stanley commands the stage whenever she appears.  John Seidman looking like Dr. Irwin Corey is Professor Metz who brings along a bunch of cock roaches.  Also delivered are some penguins, some convicts for dinner, a mummy case and a bizarre Joseph R. Sicari as Banjo channeling Jerry Stiller channeling Harpo Marx.

It’s a mixed bag of styles at best.  Some laughs.  Some groans.  Some nice comedic performances.  And lots of wonderment at how The Man Who Came to Dinner was ever so successful.

www.ThePeccadillo.com Tickets $25.00   Photo:  Carol Rosegg

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