Review by Nathan Top-
Based on the 1967 film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” has aged into a timely period piece. The story begins when twenty-something Joanna brings her fiancé Dr. John Prentice home to meet her liberal white parents, Matt and Christina, who are shocked to discover that he is significantly older than her, a widower, and black. The simple visit turns into a high-stakes debate on whether the couple should proceed with the marriage. The script is vibrant and progressive without being self-congratulatory, with the original film winning William Rose the Academy Award for Best Screenplay.
Director Piper N. Davis does a wonderful job with the tone of the show, striking the balance between comedy and drama. The production is fun without being frivolous and the themes of loving despite opposition and morality despite risk are as relevant as ever. The set designed by Ted J. Weil is simple and elegant, capturing the end of the mid-century modern style time period and the lighting, also designed by Weil, is put to effective use to delineate the larger grounds of the house in a more compact stage space. Tara Williams costumes were fun to see, most notably the adorable dresses worn by character Joanna Drayton.
The cast is large, diverse, and engaging. Elizabeth-Leigh Taylor as Matilda “Tillie” Banks is delightful to watch, portraying possibly the most complex role in the show with wonderful comedic timing. Zoe Rose Davidson is bright, bubbly and hopeful as Joanna Drayton while Ryan-Chaves Richmond is more cordial and stoic as Zoe’s fiance’ Dr. John Prentice.
Carrying the bulk of the internal conflict are the parents Matt and Christina Drayton, marvelously portrayed by Jim Hopkins and Cathy Roesener. Hoskins’s performance is large and nuanced as his character struggles coming to terms with the hardship his daughter will face due to her marriage. Roesener has some beautiful compelling scenes with Zoe Rose Davidson and truly shines in a monologue towards Cat Cook’s character. Cook elegantly captures the arc of Hillary St. George as someone the audience loves and gradually becomes someone the audience loves to hate, similar to Bryce Dallas Howard’s character in the 2011 film “The Help.” Darryl Hilton and Khrys Styles kickstart the second act as John Prentice Sr. and Mary Prentice, Dr. John Prentice’s parents, the both of whom introduce a whole new set of conflict towards their son’s potential marriage to Joanna Drayton. The show is a complicated, layered ride of a good time.
Falcon Theater’s production of “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” is a charming and thought-provoking experience. Running now through October 9th, tickets can be purchased here.
Nathan Top is a Cincinnati-based playwright and musician. Nathan works as a freelance trumpeter and pianist, performing in big bands, pit orchestras, and pop groups throughout Cincinnati, and is a graduate of CCM.