Sierra Rep brings the stage version of iconic film to its Sonora stage

Sincée Daniels and Abby Anderson in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
Sincée Daniels and Abby Anderson in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

A romantic comedy with a classic film pedigree is the next presentation from Sierra Repertory Theatre.

The iconic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” will be staged April 26 through May 19 at SRT’s East Sonora Theatre.

Sierra Rep brings Todd Kreidler’s stage adaption to the Mother Lode 52 years after the release of the groundbreaking and Academy Award-winning film. Based on the original screenplay by William Rose, SRT’s production will be directed by Becky Saunders.

According to a press release from SRT, “a handsome, prestigious doctor (Sincée J. Daniels) meets a beautiful young woman (Abby Anderson). The two begin a whirlwind romance and their swift courtship leads to a happily accepted proposal.”

But there’s a catch.

“It’s 1967 in America — the handsome doctor, John Prentice, is a black man and his intended, Joanna Drayton, a white woman. When Joanna surprises her proudly liberal parents (Matt K. Miller and Valerie Leonard) with the engagement, their values are put to the test in this moving story that deftly challenges the notion that love can conquer all,” the release said.

Even more complication arise when Joanna shocks even John by inviting his disapproving parents (Dwight D. Mahabir and Michelle W. Allison) to the dinner. “A clash of generations and races ensues when both sets of parents must confront their own unexpected reactions and concerns for their children as their long-held beliefs are put to the test,” according to SRT.

“This play offers a view of the real bigotry, in this case racial, that hides inside us, often without our awareness,” Saunders said in the release. “After all, we are only human, and since the 1960s, it is safe to say that we, as a society, have come a long way in our acceptance of the superficial differences between all that is human.”

The movie’s cast included Spencer Tracy in his final screen performance. Directed by Stanley Kramer, the film also starred Katharine Houghton and Academy Award-winners Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn. It won two Academy Awards, for best original screenplay and best actress for Hepburn.

Along with director Saunders, SRT’s managing director, the creative team also includes company founder Dennis Jones on scenic design, Josh Hemmo, lighting, Emily Wilson costume design and Jay David sound design/production stage manager.

The film version was filmed while anti-miscegenation laws were being hotly debated by the Supreme Court and it was the first Hollywood film to portray an interracial romance in a positive light, the release said.

“What I love about this piece is the warmth and humor the screenwriter, William Rose, and the adaptation by playwright Todd Kreidler have so deftly captured,” Saunders said. “They allow us to smile and shake our heads about this weakness in ourselves instead of feeling shame. Seeing this play in 2019 is a gentle reminder that we must continue to rise above our innate bigotries to become the best humans we can be. It makes me happy that SRT is producing what is sure to be a moving production.”

An opening-night reception on Friday, April 26, will be held after the performance where the audience can join the actors and SRT staff for a light reception, included in the price of admission.

A post-show talk back will be held on Friday, May 10, with several cast members, also free with admission to the play.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”

WHEN: 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays and 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (No public performance May 3)

WHERE: East Sonora Theatre, 13891 Mono Way, Sonora

TICKETS: $32-$47

ONLINE: www.sierrarep.org