Tuesday, April 14, 2015

reviews - THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER - Hale Centre Theatre

Melody Knudson, Mark Hackmann, and Josh Hunt
For more information on this production, that runs through May 16th, click here.

Highlights from local reviews of this production....

"George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's The Man Who Came to Dinner is a screwball comedy classic full of witty one-liners. With a non-stop parade of zany characters, this well-crafted play is receiving a fast-paced, well cast, and exceptionally directed production from Hale Centre Theatre.   Sheridan Whiteside may just be the worst houseguest ever. The self-centered, eccentric, powerful New York critic and radio host was on a 1939 pre-holiday lecture tour in Mesalia, Ohio, when he slipped on a piece of ice on the front stoop of the Stanley house where he had reluctantly agreed to have dinner. With a broken hip, he is stuck in a wheelchair and forced to recuperate at his hosts' home for six weeks. The way he takes over the complete house, his continual threats of suing the owners for their inability to remove the ice, and his demand that they relegate themselves to the second floor of the house to not get in his way don't exactly ingratiate him to his hosts. Director Alaina Beauloye keeps the mayhem flowing, with plenty of almost farcical outbursts from the exceptional supporting cast. Yet she also instructs her leads to instill the close relationships between Whiteside and his secretary and his friends with realistic qualities. The role of Whiteside has to be a very difficult one to play. He is on stage for virtually the entire show, confined to a wheelchair, and has to participate in non-stop dialogue with a constantly changing group of scene partners, all while portraying some sense of charm to make us like him, even though he is a very unlikable character. While Mark Hackmann stumbled just a bit on his lines during the opening night performance, he is fairly good in not overplaying Whiteside's forceful, domineering side and in the delivery of his many cutting barbs yet also allows us to see through the slight crack in his exterior that he actually cares for the people in his life. I'm sure Hackmann will only get better as the run progresses.

Mark Hackmann and Melody Knudson
Melody Knudson is a joy as Whiteside's loyal secretary, giving the efficient, smart, and well-loved Maggie an appropriate no-nonsense edge. She also has the look, style and expressive nature of the period, which, when combined with her hard-boiled smarts, allow her vulnerability and the way Whiteside tries to foil her happiness to just about break your heart. Knudson is superb. Likewise, the three comedy cameos in the piece are also excellent. The largest of the three roles is that of Lorraine, the sexy, husband-hunting actress Whiteside calls upon to help in his plan. Laura Anne Kenney doesn't make Lorraine a cartoon character, but one with feelings, which helps us like her even more. Hector Coris is simply astounding as Hollywood comedy star Banjo. He enters in act two like a jolt of electricity. His outlandish, expressive demeanor and the fact that he barely stands still for a second evoke the comic sensibilities of all of the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and Charlie Chaplin combined. Hale's well directed production is full of physical comedy, beautiful costumes, and a rich production design that is all led by a gifted cast, including exceptional work from Melody Knudson and Hector Coris, culminating in a high-energy frolic." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Hector Coris
"The Man Who Came to Dinner is rollicking good fun with some of the funniest lines and gags to hit the stage, and, albeit 76 years old, the comedy still resonates. Hale's production is blessed with a highly energized and talented cast of character actors, featuring most notably Hector Coris, whose turn as the madcap Banjo (fashioned after Harpo Marx) is tour de force hilarious. Mr. Coris commands the stage and is simply brilliant and a marvel to behold! Bryan Stewart likewise demonstrates his versatility and comic chops in an uproarious segment...Melody Knudson as Maggie, Josh Hunt as Bert, Laura Anne Kenney as Lorraine Sheldon, and Ned Peterson as Dr. Bradley bring a delightful energy and authenticity to their distinctive roles.  The bench is deep enough in this production to offset Mark Hackmann's performance as Whiteside. He appeared off his mark on opening night ~ in his pacing, the handling of his lines, and more critically, in his interpretation of Whiteside. Whiteside is a patronizing and tyrannical blowhard, self-possessed and arrogant, smarmy and sarcastic ~ and yet possessing an almost charming if not laughable irascibility. Whiteside's lines are acidic, but the recitation lacks the appropriate bite. It is this set of attributes that seemed underplayed if not neglected in what, hopefully, as the run continues, will evolve into a more nuanced and satisfying portrayal.  All things considered, Hale Centre Theatre does not cease to delight its audiences." -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

Photos: Nick Woodward-Shaw /Hale Centre Theatre

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