Guess who went to a play?

My schedule was odd last weekend so I didn’t get around to watching any movies. Part of that is because TYG and I took a 40-minute drive to a nearby town to catch a friend of ours performing in the stage version of GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?

I’m not a fan of the 1967 film it’s based on. As I said in my review years ago, the story of an interracial relationship hamstrings itself by trying to make the radical-for-its-time idea (as the movie notes, at the time the relationship would be illegal in multiple states) acceptable to white audiences. Poitier is a model minority, a brilliant doctor who does international charity work, and the film emphasizes he’s a post-racial guy with no interest in activism or fighting for civil rights — the best way to achieve equality is wait for the angry older generation of whites and blacks to pass on and leave the world to people like him. As in Star Trek: Let This Be Your Last Battlefield, the oppressed and the oppressor both contribute to the problem.

I don’t know when they adapted the film into a stage play but it’s with a much better script. There’s a much sharper sense that no, the system will not miraculously improve if you stubbornly refuse to see color. At one point the black doctor’s father waits outside in the car, simmering with rage, then he comes back in, worried someone might shoot him as a suspicious individual. The movie doesn’t look at that side of things.

The black housekeeper in the movie says a lot of stuff some whites in the audience might be thinking, like how Poitier’s doctor is getting above his position dating a white woman; in the play she’s suspicious of him but it’s the suspicion of someone who’s moving to marriage after ten days of dating. Joanna (the female half of the marriage) still comes across too innocent to believe she can really handle the crap this relationship will generate.

While obviously the cast lacks the star power of Poitier, Hepburn and Tracy, the cast (including our friend Gerald Rubin, as the dad) do well; the show starts slow but picks up steam fast.  We thoroughly enjoyed it. “I never trust a man in a nice suit outside of church.”

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