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Theater Review: “The Man Who Came To Dinner”

Kenneth Gray, Holly MacDonald, Randall Hickman
Photo credit:
Welk Resort Theatre

Never invite Sheridan Whiteside to dinner. That imperious radio wit just might fall, injure something and refuse to leave, demanding service in your home for weeks thereafter.

A nightmare? Yes. Funny? No, hilarious.

Vista’s Broadway Theater presents a rollicking production of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s classic comedy “The Man Who Came To Dinner” through April 30 at Escondido’s Welk Resort Theatre. Randall Hickman both directs and plays Sheridan Whiteside.

Inspired by theater critic and radio personality Alexander Woollcott, the play opens two weeks into “Sherry’s” residence in the Mesalia, Ohio home of prosperous factory owner Ernest W. Stanley (James Winkler) and his wife Daisy (Linda Englund). He had fallen on the ice and injured a hip.

Sherry rules from an old-fashioned wooden wheelchair, attended by Dr. Bradley (Lou Slocum), Sherry’s poor verbally abused nurse Miss Preen (Li-Anne Rowswell) and his secretary Maggie (Brannon Shaw).

Mr. Stanley can’t wait to get rid of this demanding and sometimes obnoxious presence, especially when he starts meddling in family business and giving unwelcome advice to the Stanley children. He advises son Richard (Ben Williams) to go off and pursue his dream of being a photographer. Worse, he tells daughter June (Chelsey Moore) to elope with a union organizer her parents don’t approve of.

But when reporter (and aspiring playwright) Bert Jefferson (Tim Benson) shows up to interview Sherry – and Maggie takes a shine to him, threatening to marry and leave her boss – Sherry tries to scotch that plan by inviting glamorous actress Lorraine Sheldon (Holly MacDonald) to read Bert’s play (and mess up the romance).

The plot gets sillier as it progresses, but the ending is such a winner that you won’t mind.

I’ll bet the Stanley house never looked as good as it does on the Welk stage. Set designer Douglas Davis has done it up in midwestern ornate, with gilt-look framing, a settee, easy chairs, an antique phone and desk and stairs to the bedrooms. Jennifer Edwards lights it just right.

The costumes are smashing too, especially that last purple number for Maggie, all flowers and chiffon ruffles.

This large and very capable cast of 18 plays a gang of quirky and unusual characters with panache and style.

Hickman’s Sherry really is insufferable (but funny), and that’s why the play is a hoot. It asks a question most of us have had: How do you get rid of an unwelcome guest?

See this show and watch the fireworks.

The details

“The Man Who Came To Dinner” plays through April 30, 2017 at Welk Resort Theatre, 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido.

Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm

Tickets: (888) 802-7469