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'Dinner' interrupted by the man who won't leave
by Jessica Garcia
Nov 20, 2008 | 1115 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Cast members prepare their make-up for this week's dress rehearsal of "The Man Who Came to Dinner" at Spanish Springs High School.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Cast members prepare their make-up for this week's dress rehearsal of "The Man Who Came to Dinner" at Spanish Springs High School.
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Chelsea Showalter gets ready for the dress rehearsal of "The Man Who Came to Dinner" at Spanish Springs High School.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Chelsea Showalter gets ready for the dress rehearsal of "The Man Who Came to Dinner" at Spanish Springs High School.
What do you do when you have an obnoxious house guest that just won't leave and interferes with all your affairs?

That's what the Stanley family must figure out in "The Man Who Came to Dinner" and eager Spanish Springs High School students will act out that scenario starting tonight in their performances of the 1939 stage production that has been adapted for radio, film and television many times.

"The Man Who Came to Dinner" is a three-act comedy by Moss Hart and George Kaufman. It's set in the 1930s and begins when famous radio host Sheridan Whiteside comes over to the wealthy factory owner Ernest Stanley's house for dinner. After he trips on their doorway and injures himself, he threatens to sue the Stanleys for $150,000. Meanwhile, he stays with the family while he recovers and the chaos begins as he manipulates the family to his liking. His secretary, Maggie Cutler, also falls in love with newspaper reporter Bert Jefferson. But to keep from having to replace Maggie, Whiteside hires Hollywood actress Lorraine Sheldon to seduce Jefferson and all hilarity ensues.

The Spanish Springs student actors were very comfortable in their roles during one of their final dress rehearsals on Tuesday and not at all afraid of the stage.

Derek Armstrong, who plays the eager Jefferson, is fit for the comedic role.

"I'm basically a newspaper man who falls in love with the main character, Mr. Whiteside's, secretary, so he hires a famous actress to seduce me – which works (and) which is what the whole play is about, him trying to cover it up," Armstrong said.

The tall, blonde-haired junior said his part gives him great material to deliver.

"I love the voice I get to do," he said. "All of his lines are really funny. He's drunk and comes in drunk at the beginning of act three. I do have lipstick kisses all over me. We won't discuss it."

Armstrong also played Michael in Spanish Springs' previous production of "Peter Pan" and it was his favorite role, he said.

"I wore powder-blue footie pajamas," he said.

In contrast to Jefferson, Krystal Kuehn, one of the play's leading ladies, performs as sensible Cutler, the only one who can stand strong against Whiteside, Kuehn said.

"(Whiteside and Cutler) have been together for 10 years," Cutler said. "...She's basically the more feisty secretary. In some ways I can relate to Maggie with dealing with different people. She seems to be the most mentally stable in the cast."

The cast includes other characters who quickly become Whiteside's "pawns," such as Matt Bidart's Dr. Bradley.

"Dr. Bradley is a naive and well-meaning doctor guy who's written this book and wants (Whiteside) to read it, but Mr. Whiteside thinks Dr. Bradley is an idiot and uses him to get what he wants," said Bidart, a junior.

Of course, there'd hardly a play to put on without the Stanley household's upset, Whiteside, played by James Croy. Croy sits in a wheelchair while masterfully using the characters at his every beck and call.

"Everybody loves him but he's secretly a gigantic jerk," he said. "He basically ruins (the Stanleys') lives by telling their children to run away and tells their servants to get away from them. ...He's really witty and can be really mean and can be really nice when he wants to, but he doesn't want to."

Croy said he likes his retort to everything and enjoys how it was written.

Michelle Bidart, a parent volunteer and the mother of two student actors, Matt and Katie, said the cast has worked hard since September to put the production together. She said some of the 1930s humor, however, may be lost on some of the students who attend.

The cast also included student technical crew members who learned about make-up and costumes in the process, borrowing some of the characters' clothing from Truckee Meadows Community College and showing thriftiness in other ways.

"I think we keep Savers in business," said Katie Bidart, a freshman who plays June Stanley in the production.

The play's director is Spanish Springs drama teacher Sara Bogard, an experienced artist with her own dance company in Reno called A Wing and a Prayer. She's watched the kids go from being a little nervous to showing excitement about the performances.

"When I first started, they were afraid to do character acting and make-up, graying their hair, but now they're really getting into it, so they don't mind making themselves look older," Bogard said.

The audience will also enjoy a performance of "Silent Night" by the Shaw Middle School Choir, courtesy of Shaw's choir director Heather Miley.

"We're so grateful to offer this play to the community," Bogard said.

"The Man Who Came to Dinner" is inspired by a real-life experience Hart and Kaufman had with a theater critic who launched the Marx Brothers' career but also showed the same obnoxious qualities Whiteside portrays. The play debuted in 1939 at the Music Box Theater in New York City. It was adapted for film, radio, television and as a Broadway musical, with many well-known actors throughout the years, such as Bette Davis, Jack Benny, Gregory Peck and Orson Welles starring in the different versions.

The play will be performed tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Spanish Springs High School theater. Admission is $6 for students, seniors and Washoe County School District staff and $8 for adults.
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