Friday June 23rd 2017

“The Man Who Came To Dinner”

Entertainment is to each what makes them feel good and Circle Theatre in their new digs in Oak Park has found a recipe for allowing both young and old to have a lot of laughs. Their current production, “The Man Who Came To Dinner”, a 1930’s comedy written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart is pure farce and was one of the funniest movies I recall from my youth ( and ifI can find it on cable, will still laugh at the characters). This stage version, directed with just the right touches by Mary Redmon is a delight. The story is about a famous mogul, Sheridan Whiteside ( Jon Steinhagen, doing what he does best- pure comedy) who while visiting the Stanley family  in Mesalia, Ohio slips and falls and is advised by the local doctor that he cannot be moved and so the Stanley home is turned upside down by the egomaniac and his zany friends.

Sheridan gets involved in the lives of this family and their servants as well as that of the local newspaper man, Bert Jefferson ( Danny Pancratz) who ends up falling for Sheridan’s secretary, Maggie ( played to perfection by the lovely and very talented Kieran Welsh-Phillips). Not wanting to lose his valuable girl-Friday, he does all that he can to break  them up using every bit of deception and all the tricks he can. Since this is a comedy that needs to be seen as it unfolds, I cannot tell you all the details except to say that  this is a top-notch group of actors who really work the show as a team, each doing what is expected of them and playing well off each other.

Heather Townsend does a great Lorraine Sheldon and Jerry Bloom, who plays three distinct characters truly steals his scenes as all three. Here I must say that stealing a scene from Steinhagen has to be the biggest challenge to any actor, but succeed he does. Even those who play the minore roles, in a few cases, walk off with larger laughs than the role usually gets-Debbie DiVerde’s Sara, the cook, Peter Espisito’s Dr. Bradley, Brooke Sherrod Jaeky as Harriet Stanley,and the dynamite performance by Kate Kisner as Nurse Preen. In addition to these performances, the other cast members,Jeffrey Clark Stokes, Noah Sullivan ( Mr. Stanley), Patti Paul ( Mrs. Stanley), Leigh Ryan and Jake Jones ( as the Stanley children), James Sladek and Kevin Sheehan fill the stage with their characters and bring the laughs for almost 2 1/2 wonderful fun-filled hours.Act three is a zany, somewhat contrived series of events to bring the story to an end that will satisfy every audience member. I can guarantee that while you are entranced with ths production your mind will not be on anything else- you will just have fun!

Bob Knuth has designed a set that fills the stage and gives the appearance of a large stately home. The costumes by Elizabeth Wislar and lighting by Gary C. Echelmeyer along with the sound design by Peter J. Storms are the icing on the cake. I will also say that Circle should give credit to the props master for this one- there are a great number of hand props as well as unusual other pieces and they are truly well done. This is the 1930’s and even the telegrams appeared to be fitting of that time.  Doing this old time comedy is something rare in today’s “theater world” with many theater companies leaving them on the shelf or to the college and community theaters to perform, but Kaufman and Hart need to have players and a director who understand the work to get it just right and Ms. Redmon and her crew did just that!

This production will only run through April 3rd and only on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the new digs of Circle Theatre located at  1010 West Madison Street in Oak Park ( just a bit East of Harlem Avenue). Ticket prices are  $20-$24 depending on which day and are availab;e by calling 708-771-0700 or online at www.circle-theatre.org  

FYI- they are not reserved seats, but this theater has great sight lines no matter where you are and Redmon has made sure that you will miss nothing. There is plenty of street parking and a couple of restaurants right on Madison ( Robinson’s Ribs is just a block away)

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