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The Man Who Came to Dinner

Jim Brochu gives an ebullient portrayal of Sheridan Whiteside in Kaufman and Hart's immaculately structured comedy. logo
Joseph R. Sicari, Cady Huffman, and Jim Brochu
in The Man Who Came to Dinner
(© Carol Rosegg)
Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman were the Swiss clockmakers of American comedy, creating immaculate structured laugh machines such as The Man Who Came to Dinner, which is receiving a more than acceptably polished revival by The Peccadillo Theater Company at the Theatre at St. Clement's, with director Dan Wackermann guiding a cast of over 20 actors with screwball flair.

It's true that when the grade-A work was introduced in 1939, Alexander Woollcott -- the inspiration for the extremely opinionated and curmudgeonly Sheridan Whiteside (Jim Brochu), who is wheeled on stage as having become confined to a Masalia, Ohio home after fracturing his hip following a dinner which he'd reluctantly agreed to attend -- was well known to audiences

It's equally true that Whiteside is someone who doesn't exist in today's celebrity world, an international figure intimate with the rich, famous and talented of several continents and able to convince any number of them through a cajoling phone call to grace his weekly radio show.

Nevertheless, as Kaufman and Hart molded Whiteside, he remains great fun, relentlessly sparring with the people seeing to his recovery. And even if Brochu's timing isn't entirely on the beam yet, the actor brings his own brand of ebullience to the role.

Since the devilish playwrights were more interested in hearing Whiteside mouth off mercilessly and irresistibly than worrying about plot, what little story exists centers around Whiteside's loyal longtime secretary, Maggie Cutler (Amy Landon) falling for local newsman Bert Jefferson (Jay Stratton) and threatening to leave Whiteside. Intent on squelching that event, the conniving reprobate uncorks the arrival of actress/bombshell Lorraine Sheldon (Cady Huffman) to put the moves on Jefferson.

Meanwhile, homeowners Ernest Stanley (Ira Denmark) and wife Daisy (Susan Jeffries) grow increasingly weary of Whiteside's inflexible appropriations; their children, Richard (Scott Evans) and June (Jenna Gavigan) increasingly bring out Whiteside's sunny side; Mr. Stanley's mysterious sister Charlotte (Kristin Griffith) darts about; and the play also features such flamboyant and colorful characters as the Noel Coward act-alike Beverly Carlton (John Windsor-Cunningham) and Harpo Marx stand-in Banjo (Joseph R. Sicari).

As written, there isn't a flaw in the non-stop frivolity, which also has Whiteside playing lunch host to a trio of convicted murderers and receiving Christmas gifts of four (unseen) penguins, one (unseen) octopus, a (sorta-seen) cockroach village and one very seen Egyptian sarcophagus that fits into the denouement like a mummy into a box.

It's true that many of Whiteside's lines are merely insults, which could strike some audiences as easy yuks. And the lines include some possibly dated topical references. But what's the problem with a couple of now-obscure period names dropped when the majority of gags explode like firecrackers on the Fourth of July?

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