The Man Who Came To Dinner

Like Alexander Woolcott, the early 20th century Algonquin Round Table prima donna upon whom his character is modeled, Sheridan Whiteside is an acid-tongued New York critic who knows everyone everywhere. So when he slips on the ice and breaks his hip on his way to a party out in the sticks of Ohio, it's only natural that he commandeer his hosts' quarters and turn it into his central command, transforming the once orderly Stanley household upside down in the process.

Beth Flynn, Paul Page, Claudia Carson, David Richards, Rebecca Sage, and Julia Elstun Payne
Beth Flynn (Sarah), Paul Page
(Mr. Stanley), Claudia Carson (Miss
Preen), David Richards (Sheridan
Whiteside), Rebecca Sage (June
Stanley) and Julia Elstun
Payne (Mrs. Stanley)
Photo credit: P. Switzer
Thus, the Arvada Center's revival of this 1939 classic, The Man Who Came To Dinner, by the one-two punch of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, unfolds. Director Bev Newcomb-Madden, an old hand with this genre, has assembled a exemplary cast of 22 Denver and former Denver stars to take full advantage of this laugh-a-minute comedic whirlwind.

David Richards as Sheridan Whiteside
David Richards as
Sheridan Whiteside
Photo credit: P. Switzer

First and foremost is David Richards as Whiteside, who blusters and bullies his way for three acts, holding center stage just like Woolcott did. He begins by intimidating the lady of the house, Mrs. Ernest W. Stanley, played by Julia Elstun Payne as a quintessential nervous biddy. She's joined early on by her two friends, Mrs. Dexter and Mrs. McCutcheon, a pair of hysterical apoplectic fawns in the hands of Kate Harwood and Kathy Kautz.

Laura Ryan as Maggie Cutler and Eric Sandvold as Bert Jefferson
Laura Ryan as Maggie Cutler
and Eric Sandvold as Bert Jefferson
Photo credit: P. Switzer

Then there's Whiteside's efficient and clever secretary, Maggie Cutler, a worldly yet vulnerable portrayal by Laura Ryan, who humors the old man until he gets in the way of her once-in-a-lifetime romance with Bert Jefferson, the local journalist. Erik Sandvold creates an affable and winsome Jefferson, capable of naively walking into Whiteside's counter-trap, the vampish Lorraine Sheldon, sexy and conniving Glenna Kelly, who's been brought in to bust up the relationship and keep Maggie in Whiteside's employ.

But there's more to this three-ring circus: the multi-talented Frank Oden makes an appearance as Beverly Carlton (a sendup of Oscar Wilde), charming the pants off everyone with his wit and piano playing; Greg Price, as Banjo (Harpo Marx), clowns around with mindless abandon, bringing Whiteside Heddi Lamar's brassiere; Beth Flynn, is Sarah, the soufflé queen, who swoons over Whiteside's culinary compliments; Paul Page, the man of the house, Mr. Stanley, puts up a righteous fight with Whiteside, trying to maintain his turf; Charles Hudson, as Dr. Bradley, bumbles periodically through the household, vainly thinking Whiteside is interested in his boring memoirs; Sheila McIntyre's Harriet Stanley is a hilarious mix of gentility and senility; Claudia Carson is the suffering nurse, Miss Preen, who bears the worst of Whiteside's tart wit; and a host of others fill out this rich ensemble.

Director Newcomb-Madden keeps things moving apace, and Laura K. Love's set is something to behold. Looking for something light and funny? The Arvada Center's The Man Who Came To Dinner hits the spot. It runs through February 23rd. 720-898-7200.

Bob Bows


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