Congratulations to Raleigh Little Theatre on the successful opening of a celebratory 75th anniversary show, George Kaufman'sThe Man Who Came to Dinner. This 1940s three-act comedy satirizing popular public figures such as Harpo Marx, Gertrude Lawrence, and Andrew Woolcott is the perfect way for RLT to celebrate 75 years of bringing quality theatre to the Raleigh area. Director Haskell Fitz-Simmons shows off the company's great talent with his ensemble cast of 26 actors, all of whom solidly held their own for this classic comedy.
While the need for seven page "glossary of topical references" in the program may indicate that this play is a bit dated for contemporary audiences, The Man Who Came to Dinner proves to be the perfect fit for RLT's target audience. Some audience members recall attending the first performance of the comedy at RLT in 1942 when it was a new play written in a tumultuous time. The intriguing plot served as a framework for the actors' thorough characterizations, always one step ahead, even if historical references were lost on some of the audience. The pace may have been injured by two ten minute intermissions, dragging the run time out to nearly three hours, but with such interesting relationships existing on the stage, the prospects of boredom dissipated.
Jim Zervas's beautiful set served as the perfect vessel for grounding the work. His beautiful, fully-realized home conveyed the amount of dedication RLT has given this production. This combined with the obvious commitment of the actors and the rest of production crew to reviving this work made the personal and historical connection of the company to the play more important than the fact that this generation probably doesn't know who Maude Adams is anymore.
Overall, Raleigh Little Theatre delivered another solid performance to add to its consistent record of success. Through their dedication to the piece, the actors of RLT overcame the difficulty of a history-heavy show and endeared the audience to their work, giving The Man Who Came to Dinner a wonderful personal connection for all in attendance.
This play continues through February 27. For details, see the sidebar.