BWW Review: THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER at EPAC
The Man Who Came to Dinner is a fun and funny, old-fashioned romp. Led by Ed Fernandez, the seasoned cast of 20 present an energetic and dynamic night of theater. Fernandez stars as radio personality and houseguest from Hell, Sheridan Whiteside. Whiteside slips on the ice outside the Stanley residence and is forced to recuperate among the "common folk". Fernandez plays a great curmudgeon yet knows when to pull it in to make the character more well-rounded and less cartoonish.
Kristie Ohlinger shines as Maggie Cutler, who serves as Whiteside's personal assistant and the only person with the nerve to put old "Sherry" in his place. Ohlinger plays Maggie as smart, sassy, and independent. When Maggie eventually develops a crush on newpaper man, Bert Jefferson (played handsomely by Zander Gawn), Whiteside does everything in his power to keep the two lovers apart for fear of losing his longtime assistant and loyal friend.
Bob Checchia and Robin Payne play Mr. and Mrs Stanley, the homeowners. These actors along with Joanna Underhill (Nurse Preen) and Gene Ellis (Dr. Bradley) are forced to contend with a lot of Whiteside's insults, complaints, and kooky guests. The audience feels bad for them and what they must endure, which makes any little come-uppance in the show that much more enjoyable.
Jordon Ross Weinhold has a third act cameo as Banjo, a nutty show-biz friend of Whiteside loosely based on Harpo Marx. Weinhold is a human whirlwind. The character could best be described as the love child of Nathan Lane and Robin Williams. I wouldn't be surprised if Weinhold spent the first two hours of the show, backstage pounding Red Bull in preparation.
Director, Ken Seigh does an impressive job with blocking. Even though the living room set only takes up about 2/3 of the possible performance space, the play never seems cramped. This is quite an accomplishment for such a frantic show with such a large cast.
Lastly, I have two minor points of criticism, neither of which involves the cast or crew. First, The Man Who Came to Dinner is a long show. It clocked in at just under 3 hours, with 2 fifteen-minute intermissions. The rule of thumb is that shorter is usually funnier, but perhaps Broadway audiences were more forgiving 80 years ago.
This leads to my second point. There is a ton of celebrity name dropping in this show, and many jokes depend on the audience's familiarity for the laughs. While I am sure most everyone knows who "Shirley Temple" and "The Bride of Frankenstein" are, you might want to Google names like "Zasu Pitts" during intermission to put some of the jokes into the proper context.
The Man Who Came to Dinner plays through September 14th. Tickets and more information can be found at the theater's website.