Be careful what you wish for

By M. SCOTT MORRIS / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Here’s a question: What celebrity would you invite to dinner? In Tupelo Community Theatre’s “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” a well-to-do Ohio couple has a ready answer: Sheridan Whiteside.
“He is a man of letters. He is a radio personality, a literary critic,” said Harold Plunkett, who plays Whiteside. “He’s well-versed in just about anything and knows just about anyone you can think of.”
This prestigious man accepts an invitation to visit Mr. and Mrs. Stanley, but he slips on a patch of ice and breaks his hip. Now, family members find themselves besieged by an ego bigger than Ohio itself.
“He spends the next few weeks terrorizing the Stanleys, taking over their servants, giving advice to the children and basically creating havoc,” Plunkett said.

Make ’em laugh
The script by George F. Kaufman and Moss Hart positions Whiteside as a man who uses his fame as a tool to bully other people. Many of those people are happy to be bullied, if it means they get to bask in his glow.
“It’s a comedy,” Plunkett said. “I don’t want to call it an adult comedy because that has other connotations. Sophisticated comedy, that’s a good way to describe it.”
Mr. Stanley, played by Bobby Geno, probably suffers the most at the hands of his difficult, though well-connected, guest.
“Almost everybody in the show thinks he’s wonderful except for me,” Geno said. “I think he’s obnoxious and want him out of my house.”
“The Man Who Came to Dinner” is set in the ’40s, and filled with references to H.G. Wells, Lana Turner, Mahatma Gandhi and other larger-than-life figures of the day.
Director Christopher Schager said the play’s fascination with celebrity culture gives it an immediate connection to today’s world.
“Lindsay Lohan, Madonna, Nicole Richie, Tiger Woods – all of these guys can behave terribly and they can be rewarded for it,” Schager said. “We are still enamored with the image of people, rather than who they are.”
The fictional Whiteside’ exploits will make you laugh as he makes Mr. Stanley and other characters miserable. He might also get you to change your answer to the question: What celebrity would you invite to dinner?

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.