by ALEXANDER PERRY, Lake Braddock Secondary School
The holidays are often considered an intimate, cherished time packed with tradition and routine. But in “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” one family’s desire for an ordinary Christmas is upended when an eccentric lecturer becomes confined to their home.
Langley High School’s hilarious and sentimental production suggests that a break in convention can be an unexpected reward.
George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s work sprang to life in 1939 and centers upon the irritable Sheridan Whiteside. After slipping on ice outside the home of the Stanley family, Whiteside must recover under their (reluctant) care.
He may remain in a wheelchair for the holidays, but a lack of mobility cannot hinder Whiteside’s immediate command over the house. His strict rules and interference in the Stanleys’ plans amplify the mayhem and hilarity found within the family’s walls.
Conor Farah led the show, portraying the impertinent Mr. Whiteside. Despite lacking maneuverability, Farah infused the stage with a spectacular presence. Surrounded by moving actors, he stayed content as the epicenter of the madness, unwavering in his authority.
Sitting in his wheelchair, Farah remained unfazed by any surrounding distractions, aware of all the motion around him. He paid dutiful attention to the choices of his fellow actors, reacting with brilliant timing.
Equally successful was Sarah Hilton as Maggie Cutler, Whiteside’s secretary. Hilton balanced Whiteside’s brutality with an enchanting grace, mirroring Farah’s awareness of detail. Dynamic language and intentional shifts in facial expression effectively communicated her character’s age and each of her emotions.
As Whiteside became more comfortable in the home, he invited his famous friends, including Scarlett Spano’s Lorraine Sheldon. Spano mastered the exaggerated motions of a celebrity, employing a majestic voice and excessive hand movements. Comedy thrived with Nick Kristensen’s Dr. Bradley, and Joana Lima Alves Montenegro’s Harriet Stanley. Come the third act, the audience chuckled at their mere entrances, deliberate motion providing much amusement.
Additionally, Ethan Bhatia portrayed Bert Jefferson, Maggie’s love interest, with perfect control, mastering the ability to draw attention, while simultaneously granting focus to others.
A production of this caliber requires cooperation in its technical support, a challenge Langley’s crew met superbly. Killian Korchnak strengthened the performances with his comprehensive set, including elaborate details.
Multiple elements filled the striking red background, including bookshelves, a grandfather clock and a piano, captivating the audience.
The costumes and props crews, led by Logan Dooley and Alina He, respectively, added to the show’s authenticity. Dooley utilized well-fitted clothing, which was cognizant of the character’s differences, dressing actors in luxurious and drab outfits specific to each personality. Alina He built and collected numerous objects, incorporating features vital to the story. Letters included show-specific stamps, actors poured actual liquids, and every prop’s coloration and quality added to the show’s holiday feel.
Langley High School merged witty humor with mesmerizing stagecraft for their timeless story of love and change. The production proved the worthiness of letting go of strict customs, and that an interruption to normalcy is often valuable, even if initially surprising.
The Sun Gazette partners with the Critics and Awards Program (CAPPIES) to present student-written reviews of local high school theater productions.
For more on the initiative, see the Web site at www.cappies.com/nca/.