Debuting back in 1939, The Man Who Came to Dinner is a classic comedy. However, it is not one that casts tackle too often these days, especially not young casts. However, the students of the NC Theatre Conservatory prove they’re up for the challenge with their charming production of the show, directed by Jonathan McCarter.
The play begins when Sheridan Whiteside (Michael Phillips), a famed radio personality, comes to dine at the home of a simple but well-to-do family in Ohio. Unfortunately, he manages to slip on their porch and ends up “confined” to their home for much longer than anyone bargained for.
The Stanley family handles his presence well at first. Katherine Shearin is particularly prim and effective in her role as Mrs. Stanley, showing just the right touches of awe and, later, exasperation as Mr. Whiteside takes over the Stanely home. And, he certainly does take over it. Pompous and demanding, Mr. Whiteside totally upends the Stanley’s lives. He monopolizes their staff, gives bad advice to their impressionable children, and parades a lively crew of people and animals through the home at his convenience.
And, while the antics onstage might be crazy, they are able to play out perfectly thanks to an incredibly elaborate set by Greg Osback. The superbly detailed set looks just like a real Ohio home and is complete with plenty of working doors and elaborate rooms behind them. No detail has been spared to bring the Stanley home to life, and it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable three act play.
What’s also nice here are the strong performances from the young cast.Though Phillips is playing a much older character, he manages to get across all the humor and bravado of the famed Whiteside character. He doesn’t even struggle with the mountainous dialogue the role calls for.
Another huge standout here is Priscilla Palazzo’s portrayal of Harriet Stanely, Mr. Stanley’s eccentric sister. Her brief moments onstage garner some of the show’s biggest laughs. Palazzo’s portrayal of Harriet is delightfully odd, a touch creepy, and utterly hilarious.
Faith Brunswick also does a nice job as the straight-laced Maggie, Mr. Stanley’s secretary, while Sean Clayton nails the role of her love interest, Bert Jefferson.
All in all, this show is full of hilarious antics- there’s even a penguin running around! But, the calamity is neatly contained thanks to sharp direction and a strong cast. This is a great chance to see a show with an important place in theatrical history.
We love the arts. We write about them. Founded 2018.