Review: ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ at Prince George’s Little Theatre

What can you say about a character who was on a first name basis with Walt Disney and Mahatma Ghandi? A character who dominated the radio airwaves, read plays, wrote books, who often slept until noon, and was very litigious? There was much said about the character of famous radio personality Sheridan Whiteside in Prince George’s Little Theatre’s The Man Who Came to Dinner by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Expertly directed by long-time Prince George’s Little Theatre (PGLT) veteran Keith Brown, The Man Who Came to Dinner is a delightsome evening of Christmastime comedy.

Vanessa Berben, Derrick Brown, Brian Binney, Rosalie Daelemans, Danny Brooks, Mike Dunlop. Photograph by Malia Murray.

The play took place in Mesalia, Ohio, starting the morning of December 10, 1938, and involved Sheridan being confined, due to injury, to the home of the well-to-do Stanley family—and turning that home into his own personal circus-like-office. The curmudgeonly Sheridan received a series of eccentric visitors–including ex-cons and a spoiled actress.

Vanessa Berben, Alan Barnett, Tracy Dye, and Mike Dunlop. Photograph by Malia Murray.

Much of The Man Who Came to Dinner centered on the love-and-hate-push-and-pull relationship between Sheridan and his secretary Maggie, who developed a serious thing with local newspaper man Bert.

Mike Dunlop brought an imperiousness and curt impatience to his role as Sheridan. Spending much of his time in a vintage, spring-seated wheelchair, Dunlop was at times abrasive, cajoling, and even encouraging. Tracy Dye’s Maggie was both efficient and longsuffering. Dunlop and Dye created captivating scenes together.

Danny Brooks and Rosalie Daelemans as Mr. and Mrs. Ernest W. Stanley, were exceptional in their straight-man, uptight personas, which clashed, in a comical way with Dunlop’s stubborn Sheridan. Brooks has appeared in over 30 PGLT productions.

Vanessa Berben brought a sly hint of villainy to her role as actress Lorraine Sheldon. Her verbal sparring with Dye’s Maggie was fierce. Those characters did not like each other.

Vanessa Berben, Brian Binney, and Mike Dunlop. Photograph by Malia Murray.

Brook Berry was hilarious as the foppish, frilly actor Beverly Carlton and had a frenetic, scene-stealing entrance in his other role as entomology Professor Metz. Berry had memorable scenes with Dunlop.

It’s always a pleasure to see two-time Maryland One-Act Tournament Best Actor winner Millie Ferrara on stage. Ferrara brought an eccentric creepiness to Harriett Stanley, Mr. Stanley’s sister. I loved the thick Irish brogue of Ann Lowe-Barrett as Mrs. McCutcheon.

Elizabeth Seaman, as June Stanley, had a good romantic chemistry with Rocky Nunzio’s Sandy, a union organizer who worked at Mr. Stanley’s factory. Jon Marget looked to be exactly the part of Dr. Bradley. Marget gave Dr. Bradley a hint of desperation as he implored Sheridan to help him work on a book.

Robin Schwartz, who played a nurse, Miss Preen, earned applause with a particularly intense tell-off of one of the other characters. Alan Barnett had a good intoxication scene as Bert, the newspaper man.

The gifted cast included the energetic Brian Binney as Mr. Baker/Westcott/Banjo; Janice Coffey as Mrs. Dexter; Derrick Brown in several roles including a cop (Preston Coleman is cast in those same roles); Jim Berard as butler John; Hannah Allen as maid Sarah; and Matthew Lucente as Richard Stanley.

Producer Malia Murray did an excellent job as Properties Manager, finding everything from a grandfather clock, an Egyptian sarcophagus, the aforementioned wheelchair, an impressive chandelier, and vintage microphones.

Murray’s Set Decoration included lovely, floral print chairs, a red chaise longue and portrait of June Stanley (in the likeness of Seaman). Brown’s Set Design suggested a sturdy, Midwestern, upper-class home. Linda Swann’s Costume Design was dynamite, from Berben’s sequin dress, to Schwartz’s nurse costume, to Berry’s white-shirt-and-pants\blue blazer combination. The Man Who Came to Dinner is a Christmas-themed, enjoyable time for theater-goers of all ages.

Note: You can watch the trailer by clicking here.

Running Time: Two hours and 45 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

The Man Who Came to Dinner plays through December 16, 2017 at Prince George’s Little Theatre, Inc. performing at The Bowie Playhouse – 16500 Whitemarsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 937-7458 Ext. 1, or purchase them online.


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