The Column Online

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER

Written by Todd Kreidler

Mesquite Community Theatre

Directed by Dennis H. Gullion
Assistant Director- Emily Reyna Croy
Costume Design- Emily Reyna Croy
Set Design- Scott Croy
Set Dresser- Emily Reyna Croy
Lighting Design- Scott Croy
Board Programmer- Jack Wilkinson

Cast
Cheray Williams as Matilda Banks
Jimmy-Lee Beard as Hilary St. George
Judy Perser as Christina Drayton
Nathan Deere as Matt Drayton
Molly Pope as Joanna Drayton
Sean Massey as Dr. John Prentice
Eric Nivens as Monsignor Ryan
Jerry Barrax as John Prentice Sr.
Deborah Barrax as Mary Prentice


Reviewed Performance: 2/16/2020

Reviewed by Brendon Ramsey, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (written by Todd Kreidler) is a hard-hitting and deeply emotional stage adaptation of the 1967 screenplay of the same name written by William Rose that shines a light on racial tensions in the 1960’s. In short, a white liberal newspaper owner must face his own beliefs when his daughter brings home a black doctor whom she intends to marry. What ensues is often comedic but always packed to the brim with social commentary that is still extremely relevant in today’s political climate.

The set (designed by Scott Croy and dressed by Emily Reyna Croy) was elegant and complete in every way. The house this dynamic duo created felt lived in and authentic to both the time and the people that inhabited it. This perfectly period interior was however completely outdone by the terrace adorned in a gorgeous garden packed to the brim with cactus, agave, and numerous bright flowers. The set was indescribably complimented by the simplistic but truly beautiful lighting designed by Scott Croy, and the costumes done by Emily Reyna Croy. Every character’s wardrobe was unique and fitting to their personalities while remaining perfectly period-appropriate. Costume changes can be difficult to justify in a show that takes place through the course of a single day, but each new ensemble introduced had purpose and fit the dynamic of its scene thoroughly. Unfortunately I did find that the jewelry included in Hilary St. George’s ensemble was a bit distracting.

Hilary St. George (Jimmy-Lee Beard) is an extremely flamboyant man that works for Christina Drayton (Judy Perser) in her art gallery. While the intention of Hilary’s scenes is not entirely lost, I found the character grating and over played for much of the show. Busy hands can be incredibly distracting if there’s no motive behind their movement, and I was constantly pulled from dialogue by hands flying around and an especially glittery watch catching every single light on stage. Where I feel Mr. Beard’s performance excelled was toward the end of the first act when the devious nature of his character begins to shine through more fully.

The Draytons (portrayed by Judy Perser and Nathan Deere) were simply incredible to watch on stage. Their chemistry with each other was endearing and natural, and the way they each interacted with their daughter Joanna (Molly Pope) was beautiful and heartwarming. Judy Perser as Christina was powerful and elegant, worrying over her daughter with a fervor that reminded me of my own mother. Nathan Deere as Matt Drayton was commanding and headstrong, perfectly relaying that fatherly panic when a child becomes a mature adult right before your eyes. His several monologues throughout the show were dripping with passion and intensity, and he simply steals every scene he is in. There is one interaction with Sean Massey’s Dr. Prentice in particular that left my heart reeling.

Sean Massey as Dr. John Prentice is truly a sight to behold, when tensions are high. While he is endearing and charming throughout the show, his true shining moments were in one-on-one conversation with Nathan Deere’s Matt Drayton and his father (Jerry Barrax’s John Prentice Sr.). Massey’s gravitas in those scenes where emotions boil over left me speechless and chilled to the bone. That’s not to diminish his sweet moments, though. His scenes with Molly Pope’s Joanna Drayton were loving and heartfelt, and the two of them bounce off of each other well. Their chemistry is fluid and natural, making it easy to root for their relationship. Pope’s performance as Joanna was entertaining and easy to relate to, as she navigates the chaos of the day with determination and resilience that resonates particularly well with a younger audience.

Overcoming adversity is the human experience, particularly for young adults of most any generation, and the story of Dr. John Prentice and Joanna Drayton definitively brings that into the light. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner is a beautiful show, and this cast and crew executed it almost flawlessly. I would consider this production a must-see for anyone.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner runs until March 1, 2020 with shows Friday-Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday matinees at 2:30pm at Mesquite Arts Center, 1527 N. Galloway Ave., Mesquite, TX 75149. www.mesquitecommunitytheatre.com