Review: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner at Chautauqua Playhouse

More than just food gets heated at this dinner party.

More than just food gets heated at this dinner party.

Photo courtesy of Warren Harrison

Fri 8pm, Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm. Through 6/9; $19-$21; Chautauqua Playhouse, 5325 Engle Road in the La Sierra Community Center; (916) 489-7529;
Rated 3.0

It would be easy to dismiss Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner as dated, a relic from another time. Based on the 1967 film of the same name (starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier), it’s a meat-and-potatoes comedy-drama about a white, liberal couple trying to reconcile their words versus their actions when their daughter announces her intention to marry an African American man.

The production currently on stage at Carmichael’s Chautauqua Playhouse has plenty of the old clichés and little to no recognition that times have changed since Janis Ian’s 1965 song “Society’s Child.”

Matt and Christina Drayton (Steve Minow and Lynnette Blaney, respectively) are delighted when their daughter Joanna (Kloe Walker) returns home unexpectedly, but when they realize Joanna’s guest, Dr. John Prentice (Fetalaiga Faga), is her fiancé, all their talk about love and equality gets put to the test.

The doctor’s parents, John Sr. and Mary (the imposing Corey D. and Mary Winfield), aren’t thrilled with their son’s choice; nor is the Drayton’s African-American maid Tilly (Voress Franklin, who is magnificent). Only Monsignor Mike Ryan (Rodger Hoopman, assured as ever), wholeheartedly accepts the young couple’s decision.

Of course, before dinner is served, everyone moves toward acceptance and enlightenment. Director Sam Williams gets us there with only a few lumps in the gravy.