"The Dining Room" at the Westport Country Playhouse
By Susan Granger
Playwright A.R. Gurney’s cultural observational comedy is an affectionate, yet acerbic, homage to the place that this privileged and important room -- filled with its own rituals and decorum -- has had in the homes of many generations of New England WASPs.
In this revival, under the witty, warm and wise direction of Mark Lamos, six actors -- Heidi Armbruster, Chris Henry Coffey, Keira Naughton (James’ daughter), Jake Robards (Jason’s son), Charles Socarides and Jennifer Van Dyck -- play a more than 50 roles, ranging from the very old to the very young. Moving on and off Michael Yeargan’s subtly elegant set, marked by a long, formal wooden table with its six matching chairs in the pale blue hues of Stephen Strawbridge’s lighting design, the characters tell their often-poignant stories - beginning with a real estate agent and her client.
There’s the father dawdling over his morning coffee, ignoring his son’s plea to drive him to school. An elderly woman with Alzheimer’s is unable to remember her children. A wife plops a typewriter on the table to work on her master’s degree thesis. Adulterous parents flirt during a child’s birthday party. Teenagers raid the liquor cabinet. A domestic servant is determined to quit. An adult daughter returns home, hoping to rebuild her life and a dutiful grandson asks for money for college. And so it goes until, finally, an architect, haunted by bitter childhood memories, tries to convince a psychiatrist to turn the family dining room into his office.
Gradually, it becomes obvious that, as the more casual eating habits of the younger generation conflict with those of their parents, the concept of even having a specific room devoted to dining is slowly inching toward obsolescence.
What an auspicious way to begin the summer season! Running 90 minutes with no intermission, this irresistibly involving and profoundly touching production of “The Dining Room” will be at the Westport Country Playhouse thru May 19. For tickets/information, call 203-227-4177. Don’t miss it!