A stage adaption of the iconic 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner,” starring Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier, is now playing at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. For those unfamiliar with the source material, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is the story of a white woman who brings her fiance to meet her seemingly open-minded and forward-thinking parents. She forgets to mention one fact, however — her fiance is Black. The family must then examine their feelings toward their daughter’s relationship and decide whether or not to support their union.
The film was released six months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against anti-miscegenation laws (Loving v. Virginia), and it was still in theaters when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Skip Greer, the director of the IRT’s stage adaptation of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” said he doesn’t think the themes this story explores are relics of the past. Race was a huge factor in cultural and political conversations when the film released in 1967, and he said the message is just as relevant in 2017.
“It’s tremendously relevant even 50 years later, because we are dealing with some of the same problems,” Greer said. “There is this sense in the movie version that the parents are all wrong and the kids have it all figured out, and if we wait long enough as a nation we will see things change. But those kids are us now, and if you look at this election and headlines in the newspapers, you will see we have come a long way but haven’t come far enough.”
The stage version differs from the movie in many subtle ways. The characters are the same, but scenes play out differently. Greer thinks one of the main themes of the play is the practical application of personal philosophy. In the story, the characters pride themselves on their accomplishments and ethics, but when racial and cultural issues hit close to home, the characters don’t know how to react.
Greer hopes audiences walk away with a renewed desire to fight for love and understanding among diverse groups of people.
“Hopefully they will think about the play and reach out (to other people). Art is about life, and it reminds us of what’s really important. It’s a great reminder to everyone to wake up and realize that love is worth the investment, and it’s really the only cure,” he said.
‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’
Jan. 10–Feb. 4
Indiana Repertory Theatre
140 W. Washington St.
Tickets start at $25