Friday, August 30, 2002

Flanagan's Wake (Irish Rodeo Clowns)

Irish wake can be fun at the Powerhouse

Their advertisements read “Come shed a tear, sing a song or two and share a few pints in this wildly funny and irreverent Irish Wake.” ‘Tis true. Much like TONY N’ TINA’S WEDDING and SECOND CITY, FLANAGAN’S WAKE is an interactive experience that makes for a delightful evening.

The premise is the celebration of the life and death of Flanagan in the mythical town of Grapplin, County Sligo, Ireland. As the audience, who are the “mourners” enter they are confronted by a casket and members of the cast greeting you and asking your name. Every person is given a name tag...all men, true to Irish tradition, are emblazoned with “Patrick” as a middle name. All the women’s first names are, of course, “Mary.” You’ll be called by your new name all night. We meet Flanagan’s long time fiancee, his priest, his mother and others who knew the deceased. As attenders you might be asked to sing one of the deceased’s favorite songs. Or, you might be called on to share a story of an experience you had with Flanagan. Don’t go with the idea of being a passive bystander. It will probably be impossible as the cast members sit next to you, wander around the hall, and engage you in conversation. They do everything except buy you beer, which is available at the bar all night.

The show has been performed for eight years in Chicago. It opened in Cleveland in 1996 at Kennedy’s in Playhouse Square, later moving to the Flats. The local production is performed by the Irish Rodeo Clowns who are a “merry band of actors and actresses who share a common vision to honor the greatest treasure God graced the Irish with, a deep passion for life and love.” Expect to hear blasphemist Catholic statements, many by the “priest.” Expect to hear the unexpected, lines such as “they don’t make Jews like Jesus anymore.” It’s all part of the experience. The more you are prepared to just relax, participate, and have a good time, the more you’ll enjoy yourself. As the program states, “the play may be a bit bawdy or a touch irreverent on occasion, but it is all in good fun.”

The cast list includes 20 performers though only eight appear nightly. As cast members differ greatly in their improv abilities, the show varies greatly according to who is performing the evening you attend.

On the night I attended stellar performances were presented by Gene Foster, who portrayed the mayor, Michael Mueller, adlibbing through the role of Mickey, the brother of Flanagan’s long time fiancee, and John M. Regan as the priest. All seemed comfortable, involved, and quick with the improvisations. Kira Pilat as Tara, the pianist, masterfully ad libs on the ivories to fit the mood of the presentation and fill in with appropriate songs, such as “Danny Boy.”

Capsule judgement: The show ends with the plea, “If you like us, tell 100 or 200 of your friends. If not, shut your mouth.” You’ll probably be telling many of your friends. This is a fun, if not spectacular evening of entertainment.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Araca Group (Feature Story)--2002

Three Cleveland area "kids" makig it big on Broadway

Little did I realize seventeen years ago as the director of 'THE MUSIC MAN' at Huntington Playhouse that two of the three young men I cast would become the “wunderkinds” of present day Broadway producers. Matt Rego had the first line in the production, Hank Unger the second. Matt’s brother, Michael, who by some flaw in the process I didn’t get cast, worked back stage. Today, the three make up the Araca Group, a four-year-old independent production company which has three hit shows running simultaneously on New York City stages.

In a reunion meeting at Starbucks in Playhouse Square, the day that their 'VAGINA MONOLOGUES' was to open for a second run in Cleveland, the trio recounted their local backgrounds and the road to their present day success. Matt and Michael are members of the family who founded the Rego supermarket chain. They are from Rocky River. Matt graduated from the Western Reserve Academy in 1988. Mike is an ‘86 St. Ignatius grad. Bay Village’s Unger, went through the Bay schools and graduated in 1986. They indicated that whenever they need to get away or when it’s holiday time, they come back to their roots.

They all got their theatre shoes wet at the Beck Center’s Children’s School under the direction of Ted Siller. They also appeared on stage at Lakewood Little Theatre, Berea Summer Theatre, Huntington Playhouse, and Bay, Magnificat and St. Ignatius High Schools. Local people one or all pay homage to include Bud Binns (former producer and director at Huntington), Jerry Masick (a teacher), Jerry Friedman (a Lorainite who was formerly the Managing Director at the Great Lakes Theater Festival) and the late Josephine Abady of the Cleveland Play House.

Were they always interested in theatre? Unger recounts that he used to perform magic shows in his backyard. Even then he had entrepreneurial instincts, charging the neighbors for attending his epics. There was also the production of the 8 mm “Magic Movie” and the numerous horror movies and romantic comedies the trio shot with a video camera.

The Araca Group’s name is not a series of secret letters. It was the surname of the Rego’ s grandfather, Charlie, a Sicilian immigrant. Like the trio he was a gambler who parlayed $300, which he won in a game of craps, into a supermarket chain. The young men are not only gamblers, but have lots of guts. With limited initial success for their theatrical ventures they continued to plot and plan and have succeeded beyond normal expectations.

The road to success started with problems. 'FUGUE,' a 1992 Cleveland Play House production never made it to New York. They then revived 'CLOUD NINE,' a critical success but financial flop. At this point they left show biz. Mike went to law school, Matt went for an MBA and Unger did, as he puts it, “survival jobs.” In 1997 they decided it was time to try theater again. They founded Araca and produced 'SKYSCRAPER,' which didn’t make any money. Then things turned around. The trio met success with 'THE LARAMIE PROJECT,' then 'THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES' and then 'URINETOWN.' 'URINETOWN,' despite its name, is not a “gross out” piece. It is about two kids who fall in love in a city with a water shortage. In a mad attempt to regulate water consumption, the government has outlawed the use of private toilets. The citizenry must use public, pay-for-use amenities. Anyone who refuses to pay is hauled off to Urinetown. What is Urinetown? Nobody knows, for those who are sent there are never heard from again. The show went on to win 2002 Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Musical, Best Score, and Best Book. Many thought it should also have been selected as the Best Musical. Clevelanders will get to see a touring production presented at one of the Playhouse Square theatres during the 2003-2004 season.

Their newest Broadway entry is the critically acclaimed 'FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE' starring Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco. It is a romance about two people looking for love. Coming up next is 'DEBBIE DOES DALLAS,' which they call “a funny and satirical play based on the porn film of the same name.”

I asked whether based on 'VAGINA MONOLOGUES,' 'URINETOWN' and 'DEBBIE DOES DALLAS' they were concerned about being known as the producers of sensationally titled shows. Their response? “Not if the shows are a hit!”

What is it like producing on Broadway? They describe their present activity as “putting on shows. It as not much different than producing on the local scene.” Lots of frustrated and broke producers wouldn’t agree. Our heros omitted that it takes the talent to be able to spot the right show, mount it in the right way, and have lots of luck!

It’s always exciting to read about Clevelanders making it in the competitive business of show business. May Matt, Michael and Hank continue to reign as successful producers. But, almost more importantly, may they continue to be the very nice people they are, unaffected by success, and still be “hometown guys.”

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Tea at Five (Cleveland Play House)

Kate IS Kate at Play House

Every once in a while a theatre-goer has a special encounter. It usually takes place when a play or a performer so enraptures the senses that the viewer loses track of watching a performance and becomes enmeshed with the happenings. This is the case of experiencing Kate Mulgrew transform herself into Katharine Hepburn during The Cleveland Play House’s staging of 'TEA AT FIVE.'

Matthew Lombardo’s portrait of stage and screen legend Katharine Hepburn is being showcased at CPH before its planned New York opening. Though the subject matter is supposedly well researched, one wonders how accurate it really is. Because of Hepburn’s private nature, her granting few interviews and making few public statements the public doesn’t know the real Kate. Yes, facts reveal that she was born May 12, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of wealthy, progressive parents. Her movie and theatrical career was filled with many highs and lows, including her being nominated for a record twelve Academy Awards and the winner of four. She was almost killed in a car crash in 1984, a center point of the play’s second act. She was a woman of great determination with clear goals as demonstrated by her statement, "When I started out, I didn't have any desire to be an actress or to learn how to act. I just wanted to be famous." Her trip toward fame started in 1932 when she starred in her first film, 'A BILL OF DIVORCEMENT.' Her final film appearance was 'LOVE AFFAIR' in 1994. Now 95 she lives in her family home in Connecticut.

Questions abound about Hepburn. Even though she married, was she a lesbian? What was the real story behind her twenty-seven year dysfunctional relationship with Spencer Tracey, her tempestuous equal? How deeply was she scared by her family’s history of suicides, including the death of her fifteen year old brother? Is she presently the victim of short term memory loss and non-responsive? Was she really caustic and abrasive? The play hints at some of the answers, leaves others untouched. Those who are interested in the real dirt will not find everything that inquiring minds want to know from 'TEA AT FIVE,' but there is enough to satisfy most appetites.

Mulgrew, herself, has a long illustrious professional career. Probably best know for her role of Captain Kathryn Janeway on 'STAR TREK: VOYAGER,' she also had leading roles in TV’s 'RYAN’S HOPE,' 'KATE COLUMBO,' 'MURPHY BROWN' and 'CHEERS.' Her list of film and theatre performances is also impressive.

Ms. Mulgrew’s performance as Hepburn far surpasses the quality of the material. Presented as a conversation with the audience, there are often forced moments and missing links. Mulgrew storms right through these flaws. Her voice is Hepburn’s, high pitched, with the familiar crackles in the first act, deeper and well modulated in the second. Her gestures, movements of her cigarette holding hand, her head tilts, her hair flips, her mouth pursing, the Parkinson disease tremors in her speaking and moving are right on target,. She traverses the emotional highs and lows with ease. This is one talented actress giving a tour-de-force performance.

Unlike Hepburn, Mulgrew is “unbelievably lucky in encountering this man (candidate for governor Tim Hagen) whom I love so deeply and admire so much.” The couple split their living time between their Olmsted Township home and an apartment in Manhattan. She states she is “hoping for a home in Columbus next year after my husband is elected governor.”

Capsule judgement: Tickets for 'TEA FOR TWO,' which had a record-setting pre-opening sale, are scarce, but making the effort to obtain ducats is worth the endeavor. Not only is Mulgrew wonderful, but the production values are high. Storm clouds, rain, snow and a complete rebuilding of the Hepburn house between the first and second acts grace the stage.

Thursday, August 22, 2002



The Northeast Ohio Performing Arts, Fred Sternfeld's on-line website, is an e-mail list which currently has 1,652 subscribers. The postings include performing arts news and announcements from theatres, artistic directors, film companies, producers, directors, playwrights, agencies, music directors, choreographers, production managers, actors, musicians, dancers, designers, educators & technicians.

Topics include but are not limited to: auditions, job opportunities, production openings, The Cleveland Theatre Collective, PACT News, classes, workshops, reviews & editorials, AEA news, SAG/AFTRA news & cut-rate or free tickets. You can receive your messages individually as they are posted or packaged together in a daily digest.

There are typically between 0 and 15 postings per day / between 35-60 per week.

All messages are sent out as a "blind cc:" mailing and your e-mail address will not be visible to anyone else on the list.

This service is offered free of charge.

If you are unsure whether you want to subscribe, you can sample the prior postings to the list by visiting the archives at

To subscribe to the list, look for the link on my homepage at

Friday, August 16, 2002

Vagina Monologues (Playhouse Square Center)

VAGINA MONOLOGUES poignant, funny, thought provoking

Many plays entertain. Others make important social psychological points. Still others help bring about change. Eve Ensler's 'THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES' does all of those. The most important side-journey for the play has been the establishment of V-Day, a non-profit organization that has raised over five million dollars to be used in stopping violence against women.

The play is a series of first-person vignettes, some hilarious, others heartbreaking, which illuminate women's lives. Ensler said she was inspired to write 'THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES' after being shocked by how a friend described her body in a discussion on menopause. Drawing on more than 200 interviews, Ensler chronicled how women felt about their intimate anatomy and turned these narratives into "poetry for the theater."

"Let's just start with the word 'vagina,'" the first monologue begins. "It sounds like an infection at best, maybe a medical instrument: “Hurry, Nurse, bring me the vagina.” It doesn't matter how many times you say it, it never sounds like a word you want to say. It's a totally ridiculous, completely unsexy word."

As the narration continue the audience quickly realizes that they are laughing but sometimes through tears. Some parts of the script are humorous such as when an actress moans the various types of climaxes...the Aretha Franklin moan, the baby moan, the Southern Woman moan, and the machine gun moan. Other parts are disturbing, such as a Bosnian refugee recounting the horrors of rape in war. "Not since the soldiers put a long thick rifle inside me," the passage states. "So cold, the steel rod canceling my heart. Don't know whether they're going to fire it or shove it through my spinning brain."

Is the material intentionally sexual? Is it meant to titillate and offend for the sake of selling theatre tickets? No, it is an attempt to make the female human body a reality, not something of which to be ashamed. It is meant to talk about the problems of women in a non-secretive way. Does that mean it will not offend some? The narrow minded, those who don’t understand that the words are words which express ideas and physical sensations, will probably walk out. Several did on opening night. Too bad, they probably were the ones that needed to hear the message.

The production concept is simple. There are three women, sitting on stools, dressed in nondescript clothing, reading their lines with the use of note cards. The importance of THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES is what is said, not how it is performed. That’s not to say that the cast is not excellent, it is. We just don’t need sets, costumes and special lighting to make the point...the dialogue does it all.

The Cleveland performances features Margot Kidder from August 13th to 18th. Dee Perry of National Public Radio’s Cleveland affiliate WCPN-FM will step in for the remainder of the run. Kidder is probably best known for her Lois Lane role in the 'SUPERMAN' films which starred Christopher Reeve. Kidder uses her husky voice and facial expressions well. She ad libs to late enterers, the men in the audience, and responds humorously to the concept of having sex with Superman, the man of steel! Also appearing in the show are New York actors Starla Benford and Kristen Lee Kelley, the touring production anchors who are both very proficient and obviously emotionally involved in the production.

Capsule judgement: 'THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES' is an important play to see and experience, whether you are a female or male. It’s message is universal. And, by the way, if you want a reverse version of this production watch out for 'MY JOHNSON SPEAKS!' by Dave Goodman, a celebration of maleness, which is supposedly a hysterical male answer to 'THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES' and may soon be presented at a local theatre.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Quills (convergence-continuum)

convergence-continuum, new professional theatre premiers with 'QUILLS'

It’s rough to build a new theatre, develop a company, set a clear agenda for what is going to be accomplished, and stage the first show. This is even more nerve-racking when you have your entire life savings invested in the adventure.

This is the case with Clyde Simon, the Artistic Director and Brian Breth, the Executive Director of convergence-continuum, Cleveland’s newest theatre company. The duo met while at Kent State. They went their separate ways for a while. Simon moved on to a New York theatre career. Breth acted in various local theatres while holding a day job. They finally came together and decided it was time to offer the North Coast a new view of theatre. They contend that their purpose is to present plays that none of the local theatres are doing. They will also run from Spring to Fall, which is a season when most other serious theatres take a break. The fact that their new facility, The Liminis, located in the Tremont area, is air-conditioned gives them the luxury of this unusual timing.

Simon and Breth created The Liminis theatre by purchasing a home that was built in 1860, renovated it into a personal living space, two smaller apartments, and a theatre that will seat 40 to 60, depending on the seating configuration.

As the duo states in the program notes for their first production,“We have long felt that theatre in Cleveland was the equivalent of comfort food. Familiar, bland, and safe. We longed for more challenging fare, theatre that forces us and our audiences out of our comfort zones--both by what is presented and how.” To preview their goals they selected the controversial 'QUILLS.' The show does yell “not traditional fare.”

As Doug Wright's Obie Award winning play warns, “You are about to embark on a gothic tale of virtue and vice, of comedy and terror, of love and shocking erotica, of brutal censorship and, ultimately, the uncrushable spirit of the human imagination.” It continues, “ Be forewarned. This is the imagined story of the final days of the Marquis De Sade, the writer, rebel and sensualist who explored the darkest, even criminal impulses of human passions and was proclaimed at once among the most devilish monsters and the freest spirits the world has known.”

The Marquis De Sade, from whose name sadism comes, was banished to the Charenton Asylum for the Insane by Napoleon in an attempt to quiet his “vile” writings and to "cure" him of his wicked desires. The play, as did the movie version which starred Geoffrey Rush, allows us to glance into the Sade's cell and experience how he was befriended by the progressive young asylum director Abbe Coulmier, a priest who believed in treating his patients humanely and providing means for creative expression. In this atmosphere, the Marquis found it easy to strike up a friendship with the comely young laundress Madeleine, who helps him to smuggle out his prolific writings. The play recounts how the writer’s pen was silenced through a series of hideous acts that rivaled those created by De Sade himself. On an intellectual level, it examines the conflicts between art and censorship, libido and inhibition, morality and brutality, passion and persecution.

Though sometimes hard to watch, this play is both seductive and thought-provoking. Potential audience members should be aware that full male nudity, what some would consider repugnant language, sexual narration and heinous physical acts are contained in the presentation.

Convergence-continuum’s production is uneven. Though it lists itself as a new professional, non-equity theatre, the acting levels were often not at a professional level. Simon, who has the looks of a character actor, built well into the role of the Marquis. The handsome, boyish-looking Breth was excellent as Abbe de Coulmier. Unfortunatley, much of the rest of the cast was not up to level of the leading actors. Supporting performers often lacked clear characterizations. The use of accents and overacting were distracting. Laughs were often the result of stressing titillation rather than meanings. The production was also very long with the audience being confused as to when each act ended.

There is an old saying in the auto business that one should be aware that as a new car comes on the market adjustments will need to be made. The same needs to be understood with new theatres. Be aware that convergence-continuum, Cleveland’s newest theatre model did present a thought-provoking play that many local theatres wouldn’t produce. The major performers were proficient. The new theatre space is intimate and well-suited for scripts that larger theatres can’t accommodate. Now we wait for adjustments to be made to correct the flaws.

Capsule judgement: Welcome convergence-continuum. May you have many years of success and quickly mature into a Cleveland landmark performance venue.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Avenue X (Cain Park)

Mind blowing 'AVENUE X' at Cain Park

Victoria Bussert, the Theatre Artistic Director at Cain Park and Director of Musical Theatre at Baldwin Wallace College, is at her best when faced with uncharted waters. Give her nontraditional scripts like 'ONCE ON THIS ISLAND,' 'SIDE SHOW,' and 'GOBLIN MARKET' and the lady rises to the occasion. This is again true with 'AVENUE X,' her latest challenge at Cain Park’s intimate Alma Theatre.

Bussert found the script while attending the National Music Theatre Conference where plays in their infant stage are presented for criticism and development. This was also where she found VIOLET, a previous Bussert production at Cain Park. As she revealed in a talk-back following one of 'AVENUE X'’s performances, “There is a whole new part of musical theatre besides 'OKLAHOMA'.” One of those new parts is the fact that AVENUE X is a musical performed without musical instruments. All of the singing is a capella. Another new part is the ability of present authors to go beyond happy endings and probe into more real and thought provoking story lines and conclusions. This is apparent in such contemporary shows as RENT.

'AVENUE X' is a kind of 'WEST SIDE STORY.' It is set in 1963 in Gravesend, a Brooklyn neighborhood where a recently built black housing project has encroached on a previously predominantly Italian neighborhood. The neighborhood immediately becomes a flashpoint for racial violence. The one commonality between the groups is music. Both groups are influenced by gospel, early blues and jazz of the Blacks, and opera, liturgical and common folk songs of the Italians. It is this thread that book and lyrics writer John Jiler and musical composer Ray Leslee have woven through 'AVENUE X.' It is this thread that leads to hope and finally despair in the story line.

In casting the show, according to Bussert, she had to find singers who were hybrid actors and could also work well with others. She states, “This is an edgy and ensemble piece. The actors had to trust one another.” She also indicated that with no orchestra the beauty of the human voice becomes paramount. There are no distractions, just the voices.

In the main, Bussert’s cast carries out her mission. Gary Walker sings and acts his way beautifully through the difficult role of Pasquale, an Italian teen who wants to be a musical legend and live in a penthouse. To accomplish this he has his sights set on winning a rock and roll contest. Originally he planned to partner with his best friend Chuck and their slow-witted neighbor Ubazz. Chuck’s temper and unrelenting pursuit of Pasqaule’s on-edge sister Barbara, get in the way. One day, while practicing in a sewer, which offers good acoustics, Pasquale meets Milton, an African American. In spite of their differences, their voices combine to create beautiful music. The rest of the play centers on whether the two will enter the contest, their ticket to leave their emotionally tormented existences. Derrick Cobey, as Milton, is Walker’s equal. He has a marvelous singing voice, a wonderful stage presence, and develops a believable character.

Dominic Roberts as Chuck and Trista Moldovan as Barbara, however, do not fare as well. In spite of their fine singing voices, they both use the single dimension of screaming to illustrate their frustrations. After their first tirade they have no place to build their feelings as the pressures increase.

Chad Ackerman has a strong bass voice and portrays well the intellectually limited Ubazz. He cowers from stress and is effectively confused by the world around him. Charles D. Martin was called into service only two weeks before the show opened when the actor portraying Roscoe, Milton’s step father, was struck with mononucleosis. He has a great singing voice and his rap song worked well. Colleen Longshaw wails as Milton’s mother. Ryan Green is effective as the voice of the rising black Muslim community who tries to recruit Milton.

The a capella musical sounds produced by the cast are the wonder of the show. They truly allow us to realize the line in the play, “God is sound.” Much of the credit for this production’s sound is music director Nancy Gantose-Maier.

Is this a perfect script? No. Some of the spoken lines are unnatural, forced. Some of the songs have weak lyrics. It matters not. The production, which is graced with a creative and workable set by artist Russ Broski, overcomes the weaknesses.

As Bill Rudman, the narrator of the very valuable and well received talk-back section of the evening, indicated in his opening remarks during the talkback, “This is a mind blowing piece. It, along with numerous new shows, proves that the American musical is very much alive.” He went on to state, “This show never will be seen on Broadway, but who cares!”

Capsule judgement: What we, in Cleveland, should care about is that Cain Park continues to give Bussert the opportunity to produce such shows and she continues to seek out challenging new pieces and to present.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

The Man Who Came to Dinner (Berea Summer Theatre)

Man shouldn't have come to dinner at Berea Summer Theatre

George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart only wrote plays together from 1930 to 1940. But, what a ten years those were! So important were their contributions that they are often compared to the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan or Rodgers and Hammerstein.
After 1940 the two did not work together again--not because they had a falling-out, as was the case with Gilbert and Sullivan, but because Hart had a psychological need to prove that his success was not due to a dependence on Kaufman.

Their collaborations included Once in a Lifetime, Merrily We Roll Along (1934), You Can’t Take It with You (1936), I’d Rather Be Right (1937), The Fabulous Invalid (1938), The American Way (1939), The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939), and George Washington Slept Here (1940). Their shows mirrored the era during which they wrote and, because of that, are in limited production today.

'THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER' centers on Sheridan Whiteside, a famous radio and newspaperman who, while on a speaking engagement, is invited to dine at the home of a small town Ohio family. On the way out of the house he slips on their doorstep breaking his hip, and a tumultuous six-week confinement follows. Sheridan is irascible. Ex-convicts are invited to meals, transatlantic calls bring a huge phone bill, strange gifts arrive including penguins, an octopus, 50,000 cockroaches, and a mummy case. When Maggie, his secretary, falls in love with a local reporter, Bert Jefferson, Whiteside summons a glamorous actress, Lorraine, to win the affections of the young man so that Maggie won’t leave his employ. Eventually, when all the problems seem to be resolved, Whiteside departs from the Stanley's home, but a second later a crash is heard.

The character of Sheridan Whiteside is based on Alexander Woolcott, the drama critic of THE NEW YORK TIMES, who was an outsized and extravagant egotist. The character of Banjo is based on Harpo Marx who Kaufman knew well after writing the scripts for the Marx Brothers films 'ANIMAL CRACKERS' and 'A NIGHT AT THE OPERA.'

One must ask why Berea Summer Theatre decided to stage 'THE MAN WHO CAME DINNER.' It is a very dated, overly long show that has been mostly unsuccessful in its latest rebirths. Nathan Lane’s television version was a critical and commercial flop. Last year the Shaw Festival’s attempt was met with negative critical and audience reactions. Who cares or even knows about The Wagner Act, John L. Lewis, Zazu Pitts, Philo Vance, True Story Magazine or the ditty “I ‘m just a wittle wabbit.” To add to the problems is the huge size of the cast, the necessity for actors to portray farce, slapstick and comedy with ease, and lots of props and costumes.

The BST production just doesn’t work well. The pace is slow, the characters often not well drawn, the quality of the acting is often wanting, and some of the production values are questionable.

Jean Colerider is delightful as the frustrated nurse, Mary Faktor’s wide eyed eccentricism is right on key for creating the mysterious sister, Meg Chamberlain develops a clear character as the secretary, and the audience-pleasing Kevin Joseph Kelly is hysterical in portraying the Harpo Marx-like Banjo. The kid’s chorus is one of the highlights of the show. Dudley Swetland, as Sheridan Whiteside, has some fine moments, but does not create the layers of what should be an overblown curmudgeon. Barbara Corlette fails to convince as the sexy globe-trotting actress.

Jeffrey Smart’s costumes are basically period correct. The set is weirdly-colored and rather shabbily constructed. Many props were unreal. The shabby box with the penguins kept changing in weight according to who was carrying it. The cockroach carrier was wrapped like a cardboard gift package. Letters and bills were obviously not real.

Capsule judgement: 'THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER' is a dated show that gets a marginal production at BST.