Wednesday, May 27

Hooligan Theatre play to focus on 1930s elite in ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’

Hooligan Theatre play preserves era in fall production based on period celebrity class

The fall Hooligan Theatre production "The Man Who Came to Dinner," opens today at the Sunset Recreation Center at 8 p.m. with performances through Monday.

Alexis Fogel

"The Man Who Came to Dinner"

Through Monday
Sunset Recreation Center, FREE

Alexis Fogel

Second-year psychology student Danny Hoff (left) and second-year nursing student Keziah Pagtakhan rehearse a scene from “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”

Correction: The caption for the photo published with this article on Nov. 19 contained an error. The students pictured in the rehearsal photo from “The Man Who Came to Dinner” are second-year psychology student Danny Hoff (left) and second-year nursing student Keziah Pagtakhan.

Take New York City’s most insolate handicapped celebrity, a pair of convicts, a sassy secretary and a blundering doctor. Now dress them in lots of lace and top hats. Chaos ensues.

Starting tonight, the Hooligan Theatre Company will present “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” a comedy in three acts about a hotshot 1930s radio host whose outrageous personality makes trouble for residents living in the quaint town of Mesalia, Ohio. The show runs through Monday in the Buenos Ayres room of the Sunset Recreation Center.

The play opens in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as Sheridan Whiteside leaves New York for Ohio for a dinner party with the notable Stanley family.

But the affair becomes a battle between the Stanley family and Whiteside’s celebrity ego after he slips on a sheet of ice outside their front door, prolonging his stay.

Daniel Hoff, a second-year psychology student, stars as protagonist Sheridan Whiteside.

“(Whiteside is) arrogant, and he loves language, and he loves words,” Hoff said.

First-year psychology student Jessica Rosenfeld plays leading lady Maggie Cutler ““ Whiteside’s secretary and the only one able to stand up to his domineering antics.

“They have a funny relationship,” Rosenfeld said. “Maggie knows all of Mr. Whiteside’s little quirks.”

According to Hoff, one of the highlights he anticipates for the performance will be a 21st century audience’s reaction to a play featuring the flamboyant whims of the 1930s elite.

“It’s a period we don’t think about too much in terms of the class that (Whiteside is) in, which is the celebrities. We don’t think of the ’30s as a prosperous time of celebrities ““ heavens no. We think of the Depression,” Hoff said.

Written as a contemporary piece, the Kaufman and Hart play made its first debut in 1939 at the Music Box Theatre in New York City.

The Hooligan team has been working since the beginning of the quarter to preserve that specific 1930s context.

According to co-producer and third-year psychology student Alisa De Los Santos, one of the notable distinctions of this season for Hooligan is that the design team is comprised of entirely new members.

“It’s brought out a lot of creativity and new ideas. They’re all figuring out how they mesh together,” De Los Santos said.

It will also be the largest fall production in Hooligan’s history, with 26 people on staff and an extensive cast.

On the seams of Maggie’s small love affair and Whiteside’s inexorably brazen humor, viewers can expect a whole progeny of eccentric characters stumbling onto the stage.

According to De Los Santos, the script was chosen in part because of its many supporting roles. Hooligan, she explained, was founded with the mission of providing theater opportunities to non-theater students.

Luis Legara, a first-year undeclared student, plays the comic role of Doctor Bradley in what will be his first Hooligan performance.

“He’s a bumbling, clumsy, professional idiot,” Legara said.

Shen Heckel, a fourth-year theater student, the artistic director and co-producer with De Los Santos, said she hopes the show inspires other students to join Hooligan.

“For the big winter show, we accept everybody. We want people to say, “˜Hey! I want to be a part of that,'” Heckel said.

But for Tyler Schwartz, second-year English student and director of the play, laughter is paramount.

“There are some really funny people in the cast … sometimes, when you get them together, you can’t stop laughing … you can’t get a better night for free,” Schwartz said.

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