Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Nov. 29—Jan. 5 $55–$70
Arena Stage
1101 6th St. SW, Washington, DC
(202) 488-3300
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, for all the ground it broke, is a period piece now. Todd Kreidler’s 2012 stage adaptation is set in 1967, the year of the film’s release. He’s expanded William Rose’s original screenplay with signpost lines like “Crêpes are all that’s left of the French in Algeria!” Much of the audience will recall the movie starred Sidney Poitier, the epitome of screen dignity, as that prospective son-in-law, John Prentiss. Malcolm-Jamal Warner, stepping ably into the role here, has parent-pleasing credentials even stronger than Prentiss’—eight years as Theo Huxtable on The Cosby Show. I enjoyed Lynda Gravatt’s speechifying most, in the role of Tilly, the maid. But when does a maid not get to steal every scene she’s in? Monsignor Ryan, the well-lubricated man of the cloth who’s on intimate terms with the Draytons even though they’re not religious, finds his part much expanded from the film. When he cites the scripture of John and Paul here, he’s talking about The Beatles. Michael Russotto lays the Irish accent on awfully thick, but he’s warm and winning. The play ends with Stevie Wonder’s cover of “We Can Work It Out,” the Beatles song quoted by Monsignor Ryan earlier. It’s a choice that is, like the rest of the show, unimpeachable. [CK]

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