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Sheridan Whiteside, the title character of The Towne Players of Garner's April 16-24 presentation of the classic Kaufman and Hart comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner, is truly the House Guest from Hell. Crotchety New York Times drama critic, writer, radio personality, and member of the Algonquin Round Table Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943), a large, portly man with an acid tongue and a gargantuan ego, was the larger-than-life model for Whiteside and even played the role on stage.
The show made its Broadway debut at the Music Box Theatre on Oct. 16, 1939, with playwright George S. Kaufman (1889-1961) directing and Monty Woolley (1888-1963) starring as Sheridan Whiteside. The Man Who Came to Dinner ran for 739 performances, closing on July 12, 1941.
William Keighley directed the 1942 motion-picture version of this fish-out-of-water story, which featured a screenplay by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein. Monty Woolley reprised his role as the curmudgeon's curmudgeon.
In The Towne Players' production, Burlington, NC stage, screen, and television actor David Wright will play Whiteside, an irksome intruder who becomes the reluctant house guest of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest W. Stanley of Mesalia, Ohio, after he breaks his hip on their icy doorstep, and threatens to sue. Wright is the managing director and artistic director for The Paramount Theater in Burlington.
Sheridan Whiteside, a quintessential New Yorker from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, is visiting Mesalia on a lecture tour of Middle America when he accepts the Stanleys' invitation to dinner and subsequently slips and falls. After his accident, The Great Man is confined to the Stanley house for six weeks, and the Stanleys discover to their horror and chagrin that Whiteside is tyrannical, selfish, and sharp-tongued. Moreover, he simply takes over the Stanley household, demands meals on his schedule, invites all his globe-trotting friends to visit, and gratifies his every whim, no matter how inconvenient or annoying it is to his hosts.
According to Dramatists Play Service, Inc., "The Stanley living room is monopolized by the irascible invalid; ex-convicts are invited to meals; and transatlantic calls bring a $784 phone bill. The arrival of strange gifts from his friends further destroys domestic tranquility. It would take a stoical housewife to harbor penguins in her library, an octopus in her cellar, and 10,000 cockroaches in her kitchen."
An all-star cast comprised of Towne Player mainstays Greg Flowers, Tim Upchurch, Rusty Sutton, Rob Smith, Kelly Stansell, Sharon Pearce, Meg Dietrich, Tim Wiest, Holmes Morrison, Beth Honeycutt, Jack Chapman, Ethel Webster, Marti Hall, Arlie Honeycutt, Ken Hall, and Frances Stanley and newcomers Michael Armstrong, Maggie Cochran, Laura Strain, Carlene Cearley, Shannon Stansell, David Kamphuis, Jack Honeycutt, Colin Pippin, Ashley Stanley, Jonathan Stanley, and Hunter Stansell will have The Garner Historic Auditorium rocking with laughter.
Critically acclaimed Triangle costumer David Serxner will design and build all the costumes. Scott Honeycutt will serve as the show's technical director; and his wife, Beth, will direct as well as star in this comic masterpiece by George Kaufman and Moss Hart (1904-61).
The Towne Players of Garner present The Man Who Came to Dinner Friday, April 16, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 17, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Thursday-Saturday, April 22-24, at 8 p.m. in The Garner Historic Auditorium, 742 West Garner Rd., Garner, North Carolina. $8 ($6 students and seniors and $5 for groups of 10 or more). (919) 779-6144. The Towne Players of Garner: http://www.towneplayers.org/. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=12627.