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Holiday comedy classic ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ to be offered by Department of Theatre and Dance
Friday, November 04, 2016

Holiday comedy classic ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ to be offered by Department of Theatre and Dance

The cast of the Department of Theatre and Dance production of "The Man Who Came to Dinner" includes (from left) Tom Loughlin as Sheridan Whiteside, Gretchen Martino as Maggie Cutler, Josh Carey as Bert Jefferson and Carly Dieck as Lorraine Sheldon.

There’s no place like home for the holidays – that is, unless you can manage to take over someone else's abode.

That’s the situation that arises in the American comedy “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” which is the next offering in the Walter Gloor Mainstage Series.

This Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance production runs for one week only, with six performances from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4 in Rockefeller Arts Center’s Marvel Theatre.

“The Man Who Came to Dinner” is a comedy in three acts written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. It premiered on Broadway in October 1939.

Set at Christmas time in the 1930s, “The Man Who Came to Dinner” finds famous radio personality Sheridan Whiteside being invited to dinner at the home of a rich factory owner. Before he enters the house, Whiteside falls and hurts his hip and ends up staying at the home to recover. He consequently terrorizes the lives of everyone in the house.

The Mainstage production is directed by Theatre and Dance faculty member Dr. James Ivey, whose recent department credits include “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” and “Balm in Gilead.”

Dr. Ivey thinks the “The Man Who Came to Dinner” features “some of the best comic writing of its day.”

“Hart and Kaufman had already collaborated on ‘Once in a Lifetime’ and ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ by the time this play came to Broadway for its nearly three-year run,” he said. “The lasting and enduring power of this great comedy is the colorful array of characters, many of which are based upon real personalities of the day. The central character of Sheridan Whiteside is based upon theater critic and radio personality Alexander Woollcott who would eventually play the role in a touring road company. Other characters represent Noel Coward, Gertrude Lawrence and Harpo Marx who were all contemporaries of Woollcott and the two playwrights.”

Theatre and Dance Chairman Tom Loughlin is featured in the role of Sheridan Whiteside.

“Perhaps the most compelling reason to come see this delightful family-friendly play is to see Tom Loughlin play the title character as he takes the Marvel stage for the last time as a performer,” Ivey said. “Professor Loughlin will conclude his long career at Fredonia by turning his talents to the curmudgeonly character of Whiteside.”

Loughlin, who has taught at Fredonia since 1988 and has served as theatre department chair since 2010, will step down at the end of the fall semester.

Ivey said additional highlights of the Mainstage production include scenery designed by student Brian McMullen and faculty member Czerton Lim and the period costumes by faculty member Dixon Reynolds.

“The beautiful scenery, designed by Brian McMullen and Czerton Lim, is alone worth the price of admission and the period costumes of Dixon Reynolds will complement and dazzle the audience with fashions of the late 1930s,” Ivey said.

There are also cameo performances by Ralph Blasting, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, as the Expressman and Ivey as Banjo. In addition, 28 students have roles in the play.

“The audience should be put in the holiday mood since the play is set at Christmastime and concludes on Christmas morning,” Ivey said. “The play is ultimately about forgiveness and the healing of a broken heart so the audience should leave the theater with a renewed faith in humanity while having a hearty laugh-filled evening.”

Dates and performance times are Wednesday, Nov. 30 and Thursday, Dec. 1 through Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. There will be 2 p.m. matinées on Saturday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 4.

This Walter Gloor Mainstage event is presented as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season. Tickets are available through the Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 or online.

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