Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 7, 2016

Indian Hills presenting free play

Nov 28, 2016

OTTUMWA — We usually don’t think of a fractured hip as being humorous, but on the Indian Hills stage, in George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s classic comedy “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” first staged in 1939, a diagnosis of a fractured hip leads to a fractured farce, complete with penguins, hatchet murderers, and lots of holiday cheer. Three performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday in St. John Auditorium. Performances are free, but patrons are encouraged to reserve seats by calling 641-683-5144. Parental guidance is suggested due to some strong language in the production.

“Our students have put a lot of work into this challenging period piece,” said Director of Fine Arts Jennifer Boyenga, “and it is paying off in what promises to be a charming holiday treat.”

“The title character really is a spoiled child who isn’t getting his way,” said Professor of English/Theatre Ray Slavens, “which makes his outrageous comments and actions all the more funny.”

When famous radio personality and snob Sheridan Whiteside reluctantly arrives in the small town of Mesalia, Ohio, on a lecture tour, a slip on the ice on the front stoop of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Stanley turns into a ruined Christmas. From his wheelchair throne, Whiteside proceeds to take over the Stanleys’ house, relegating them to the back stairs and their upstairs bedroom, while convicts, professors, and stars of stage and screen flit in and out of their living room. Meanwhile, Whiteside’s secretary Maggie becomes smitten with a local newspaper man, and petulant Whiteside tries to foil her romantic plans.

“In addition to working hard on their performances,” said Slavens, “students have put a lot of work into building the set for this show, including the special challenges of building a mummy case and a cockroach city.”

“This fast-paced comedy requires expert timing,” said Boyenga, “and it has been a great opportunity for our theatre students to learn about comic acting.”

The title character, Sheridan Whiteside, is played by Bret Doud (Ottumwa) while Cecilia Mitchell (Grinnell) plays his secretary, whose budding relationship with Bert Jefferson, played by Justin Lenger (Knoxville), nearly sees a premature end due to the machinations of Hollywood vamp Loraine Sheldon, played by Jaime Wright (Plymouth, Illinois).

The exasperated Stanleys include Joseff Reed (Oskaloosa) as successful businessman Ernest Stanley, and his wife, Daisy, played by Peyton Nelson (Ottumwa). While Mr. and Mrs. Stanley never warm up to Whiteside, their children Richard, played by Gannon Haile (Fairfield), and June, played by Devin Dailey (Ollie), soon find themselves encouraged to follow their dreams regardless of their parents’ wishes. Rounding out the Stanley family is Amanda Gray (Milton) as Mr. Stanley’s colorful spinster sister Harriet.

Also terrorized by Whiteside is his nurse Miss Preen, played by Breeann Young (Melcher-Dallas), while T.J. Rankin (Birmingham) as John the Butler and Cecily Kelso (Ottumwa) as Sarah the Cook come to love and admire their famous guest.

Visitors to the Stanley household include local society women Mrs. McCutcheon, played by Railee Ellison (Bloomfield), and Mrs. Dexter, played by Hannah Haring (Cambria). Nathaneal Leege (Ottumwa) is the bumbling Dr. Bradley, and Tessa Walker (Centerville) is insect expert Professor Metz. June’s boyfriend, labor agitator Sandy, is played by Seth Bethune (Hedrick), while Esther Bartowe (Ottumwa) appears as stage as screen legend Beverly Carlton, and Juan Aldaba (Ottumwa) performs as vaudeville and film star Banjo.

Rounding out the cast are Nyrobi McIntire (Centerville) as Baker, the prison guard, Tony Hockenberry (Mt. Pleasant) as a delivery man and police officer, and Mark Elliott (Ottumwa) as a police officer.

The stage manager for the show is Katie Greve (Dubuque), assisted by Jaci Guthrie (Newton), Suzy Schurman (Melcher-Dallas), Nicole Gallentine (Indianola), and Brian Brain (Hedrick).

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