The Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players’ “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” might rightfully be called “The Man Who Came to Dinner, and way overstayed his welcome.”

That’s the comedic premise of the 1939 stage production by George Kaufman and Moss Hart.

The play was subsequently made into a movie in 1942 starring Monty Woolley, Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Mary Wickes, Richard Travis, Reginald Gardiner and Jimmy Durante. It’s well worth enjoying.

The play’s principle character, Mr. Sheridan Whiteside, an acerbic-witted, well-known writer and radio personality, is thoroughly self-absorbed and pompous. Played handily by Carnegie regular Barry Swindall, Whiteside breaks his hip on the doorstep of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Stanley, performed by Carnegie veterans Hillard Cochran and Robin Levac.

What ensues is weeks of recovery for Whiteside in the Stanley home in conditions of laughably caustic captivity for everyone near him.

Think of Sheridan Whiteside as a cross between Cary Grant’s accent and diction, Spencer Tracy’s irascibility, Humphrey Bogart’s bad attitude in “African Queen,” and Don Rickles at his insulting best.

Whiteside’s ever-present, loyal secretary of more 10 years and his dramatic foil, Maggie Cutler, without whom Whiteside wouldn’t be able to find his socks is played perfectly by another delightful Carnegie regular, Staci Cook. Cutler finds herself falling for a local journalist because of her weeks-long stay in the Stanley household.

When Whiteside discovers his hip is not really broken through the local doctor’s error, he contrives a scheme to break up Maggie’s blossoming relationship to his own benefit.

After all, who would replace the dependable and unflappable Maggie?

Calling on his old, dear friend and Hollywood starlet, Lorraine Sheldon (played with glamour and insecurity by Joy White’s) Whiteside’s ploy to break up the romance of the love-struck Maggie goes awry. Maggie tries to turn the tables on him with Whiteside’s friend, Beverly Carlton, played with delightful flamboyance and energy by another Carnegie gem, Travis Cook.

When Whiteside realizes he’s about to lose his best and only true friend, he has to think fast to fix the situation.

This endearing play, produced during difficult economic times and World War II, was crafted for pleasant diversion by mocking the formal rules of etiquette that governed everyday life of the time and the eccentricities and egos of the day’s celebrities.

Fast forward to the present, and it sounds like nothing’s changed — times are tough and we’re at war again — and the need for a little comic relief has never been greater.

This would be a terrific, extended Saturday Night Live skit.

The many characters that drift through the Whiteside-controlled Stanley household support the story’s ebb-and-flow and surprising finale.

Amanda Adams and Kristi Mills respectively play Rachel and June Stanley, the daughters of the homeowners, with their life’s dreams delayed by their domineering father.

Then there’s the bumbling local doctor who fancies himself an author, played by Jay Lewis, who provides the dramatic twist for the action.

Aaron Lett charms as Maggie’s love interest, Bert Jefferson.

Harriet Stanley, the homeowner’s sister, acted by JoAnn Gracey, gives laughable new meaning to the terms “flakey” and “weird” as she figures prominently in the play’s climatic turn.

Finally, there’s the Harpo Marx-inspired, Jimmy Durante played “Banjo” character, well portrayed by Carnegie rookie, Russ Walker.

This is quality entertainment that the whole family will enjoy. The play runs Fridays through Sundays starting today and continues Saturday, Sunday, March 13-15 and March 20-22.

Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 pm at the Carnegie Theatre, upstairs in the Layland Museum.

For information, visit www.carnegieplayers.com.

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