Dec 10, 2012 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
There’s never a lack of action as two dozen characters scurry and scuffle across the ample stage at the new CNY Playhouse in an uproarious revival of “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” now playing at Shoppingtown Mall. All the coming and going keeps the three-hour show moving along merrily as yuletide approaches both onstage and off.
Starring the ever-adept Jim Uva as irascible radio personality Sheridan Whiteside, the production also showcases actresses Joleene DesRosiers Moody and Alexendra Gilman as rivals for the romantic attentions of a small-town reporter.
First staged on Broadway in 1939, the classic comedy revolves around Whiteside, a cosmopolitan celebrity relegated to a wheelchair in rural Mesalia, Ohio, after an accident on the ice shortly before Christmas. Whiteside is modeled after Alexander Woollcott, The New Yorker’s caustic theater critic, a member of the Algonquin Round Table who often tipped a few with playwrights Moss Hart and George Kaufman.
An actor who recently tackled the title role in “Jekyll and Hyde,” Uva creates a wonderful Whiteside, a monstrous house guest who eventually reveals a heart of gold.
Although he sometimes supplants venom with volume and mispronounces “get” as “git,” Uva manages to anchor the action as Whiteside sabotages his secretary’s sudden crush. Between querulous quips he also disrupts his hosts’ home fire by urging their twenty-something kids to fly the coop and follow their dreams.
Having previously helmed the comedies “The Odd Couple” and “Arsenic and Old Lace,” director Dan Rowlands was well-prepared to tackle this big-cast satire. With 22 players filling 26 roles, Rowlands has his hands full here, but his cast rises to the occasion.
Stand-outs include Alan Stillman as swishy conniver Beverly Carlton, Tom Minion as flustered homeowner Mr. Stanley, Kathy Egloff as pixilated Harriet Stanley, Ika Kaplan as a stage-struck maid, Justin Polly as an eccentric entomologist and Miquon Jackson as a hyper-kinetic clown.
The best, however, are Joleene DesRosiers Moody as Whiteside’s prim and proper secretary, Maggie Cutler, and Alexendra Gilman as glamorous, self-centered showgirl Lorraine Sheldon.
Moody’s Maggie simmers beneath her demure blue suit as her repressed sensuality is unleashed when she meets newspaperman Bert Jefferson, played by handsome Scott Pflanz. Gilman’s Lorraine sparkles in silver and diamonds as she dishes Broadway gossip before vengefully setting her sights on Bert. These two strikingly attractive actresses each display a formidable stage presence as well as a flair for humor.
Rounding out the cast are Cathy Greer-English, Josh Hintz, Hope Earley, Steve Rowlands, Colleen Deitrich, Daniel Lawless, Dorothy Booher, Judy Schmid, Chris Best, Phil Brady and Daryl Acevedo.
Doubling as set designer, Rowlands visually framed the play by constructing a spacious drawing room with royal purple walls decorated with gold fleur de lis. A Christmas tree appears in Act 2 to celebrate the season.
Meanwhile, Whiteside’s wheelchair looks like a real antique, and the similarly ancient candlestick telephone aptly evokes days gone by. Prop master Crystal Rowland and costumer Barbara Toman deserve credit for their fidelity to the 1930s.
On the other hand, a few of the allusions to that era’s luminaries may elude modern audiences. Everybody will recognize names such as Walt Disney and Howard Hughes, but only a handful will recall Anthony Eden, John L. Lewis and Hedy Lamarr.
Nevertheless, CNY Playhouse artistic director Dustin Czarny and company have mounted a marvelous holiday diversion. Audiences won’t soon forget this “Man Who Came to Dinner.”
“The Man Who Came to Dinner” continues at CNY Playhouse, near the Macy’s entrance at Shoppingtown Mall, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13, 14 and 15, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16; it concludes its run Dec. 20-23. Tickets cost $20 for the show only, or $34.95 for dinner and show at Friday and Saturday performances. The 6:30 p.m. dinners are catered by Cathy’s Corner Café; 885-8960; cnyplayhouse.com.
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