The Dining Room

By Marlene S. Gaylinn

The Westport Country Playhouse opens its 2013 season with A.R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room.” Gurney works are mostly about a particular class of wealthy Americans referred to as WASPS. He likes to poke fun at their false values while illustrating the fact that most of us have the same human traits. Witty and cleverly crafted, his plays are like sculptures. They speak to our experiences. There are no earth-shattering revelations and no significant lessons to be learned.

 

The play is situated in the dining room because that’s where most families meet and interact with each other. Since this room is the central focus, scenic designer, Michael Yeargan created a haunting, old-fashioned, formal dining room, which is an artwork to be admired. The main wall, hovers in the background like a ghost from the past. It is quite flat and painted in tones of grey -- even the light fixtures are painted in. It’s no doubt that generations have spent time in this space and if the wall could talk, it might have a lot to say. The foreground is more realistic and sometimes the actors interact with both the past and the present via the furnishings.

 

What’s unusual about this play is that six actors play many roles. Individual characters represent the past and present occupants of this dining room and perform scenes from various time periods. If you can keep track during this over-long, one-act play, the past and present are neatly interwoven -- and snippets are performed simultaneously. Gurney seems to be toying with time, space, and our imagination.

 

Mark Lamos deftly directs Heidi Armbruster, Chris Coffey, Keir Naughton, Jake Robards, Charles Socarides and Jennifer Van Dyck -- all have extreme abilities to change characters in a flash. As a child suddenly appears as an adult, it’s a challenge to recognize the individual actors.

 

Plays through May 19
Tickets: 203-227-4177

 

This review appears in “ON CT&NY THEATRE” May/2013

 

 

 

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