Interracial marriage historically was illegal in most parts of the United States, and in 17 states it was not only unlawful, it was dangerous. This bleak and disturbing part of our history continued until June 12, 1967. During this period couples of different races fought not only to love each other but to have the right to marry and start a life together– even if it went against the moral fabric of society.
“Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” is an American comedy-drama film produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, and written by William Rose; it is about interracial marriage and the battle against racism. The infamous movie starred Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn, it also featured Hepburn’s niece, Katharine Houghton.
This storyline that was ahead of its time has been said by some to have helped the anti-miscegenation laws struck down by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia in 1967; this ruling invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
It was nothing short of an incredible story during a time of turmoil. It was also one of the few films of the time to depict an interracial marriage in a positive light.
Playwright Todd Kreidler decided to take on this classic story, “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” because it was so thought-provoking that it still resonates today. His stage adaptation brings race relations up close and personal.
The story is set in the 1960s in San Francisco, where Matt and Christina Drayton (Tim Hopper and Mary Beth Fisher) live a modern White, upper-class life; they discover that their secure life is about to change suddenly. This change occurs when their daughter Joey (Bryce Gangel) returns home with a renowned Black physician name John Prentice (Michael Aaron Pogue). To make matters worse, she’s only known him for ten days, and she intends to marry him. All of a sudden their longtime broad-minded values of fairness to all seem small-minded when challenged on the front-line with their ideologies.
The Draytons, who are professed liberals, instilled in their daughter the idea of racial equality and now find themselves in a difficult situation with personal questions about the future of their daughter and their family; and Joey and John aren’t the Drayton’s only surprise guests coming to dinner.
The acting in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was great, but we loved the parts played by Sydney Charles as Tillie and Dan Waller as Monsignor Ryan. Charles almost stole the show with her portrayal of Tillie. She was amazingly funny with her spot on performance and Waller was equally brilliant. We have had the pleasure of seeing Sydney Charles in several performances, and she is an exceptional actress worth taking a serious look at as a Jeff Award Winner for her role as Tillie.
The play was a delightful and fun production that will make you want to seek out and see the original movie. Sure, it veered a little away from the original and added a few comments while updating a few characters’ persona with a little wit, but it worked out tremendously well.
Just like the movie, this play provides us with this greater than life African-American man that is far above most men in his education and accolades. Dr. John Prentice is the perfect catch until you open your eyes. Is an average Joe with a blacker hue not enough? Our love for the movie and the play seems to always go back to that question.
Unfortunately, we still live in a world where both sides frown on interracial marriages between Blacks and Whites. Maybe one day, we can all sit down and look at the character of the person. We genuinely look forward to this dinner.
We highly recommended seeing “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” at Court Theatre. Hopefully it will do a little more than entertain you.
The cast includes:
Sydney Charles (Matilda “Tillie” Banks)
Mary Beth Fisher (Christina Drayton)
Bryce Gangel (Joanna Drayton)
Tim Hopper (Matt Drayton)
Michael Aaron Pogue (Dr. John Prentice)
Rachel Sledd (Hilary St. George)
Dan Waller (Monsignor Ryan)
Jacqueline Williams (Mary Prentice)
Dexter Zollicoffer (John Prentice, Sr.)