YOU'RE INVITED TO TAKE A SEAT IN "THE DINING ROOM"


BONNIE GOLDBERG

A formal dining room can be the simple setting for a hurried bowl of corn flakes and a fast read of the headlines at breakfast, a friendly ladies lunch where gossip is more important than the spinach and onion quiche, a gala engagement party to celebrate an upcoming and long awaited nuptials, all the way to a family gathering to acknowledge the multitude of blessings of a Thanksgiving feast. Seldom has it been the setting for a plethora of stories more fulfilling and rewarding than in A. R. Gurney's sweet, sentimental, slightly serious, often silly play "The Dining Room."

Until Sunday, March 8, West Hartford's Playhouse on Park will be setting a place for you in the honored seat at the head of the table. There you will bear witness to a wonderful variety of stories that take place in that venerable room of the house. A series of scenes will collide and overlap seamlessly in "a mosaic and evolution of time passages" according to one of the featured actors, Ezra Barnes. The observations of life tell volumes about the characters, from their use of finger bowls to their fiery defense of any slight that affects a family member. The traditions of the dining room are sacred and have experienced a succession of changes over the decades, all delightfully captured by the playwright.

A talented and incredibly versatile troupe of performers - Ezra Barnes, Annie Grier, Susan Haefner, Sean Harris, Susan Slotoroff and Jay William Thomas - will tackle a multitude of roles, from scrappy lad to forgetful grandma, architect to real estate agent, lecturing father to unfaithful mother, a Thanksgiving of disappointment to a marriage that needs repairs. What they all have in common are the sturdy table built in1898 and the occupants are all WASPS, Gurney's favorite culture, wealthy and privileged White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who portray the declining vitality of their lifestyle and of the table that was once the focus of their power. Because of the success with "The Dining Room," Gurney left teaching at MIT to write full-time. Sasha Bratt directs this involving collection of family tales that pays homage to a dying tradition and the people who kept it sacred for so long.

For tickets ($25-35), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext.10 or online at www.playhouseonpark.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

 Let A. R. Gurney be your guide into a world he knows intimately well and introduce you to a clan of people whose lives have changed dramatically over the years, even if their beloved dining room table has endured in tact over the decades.

 

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