The Dining Room – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

A.R. Gurney was an astute observer of life. He loved to poke a gentle finger of fun at one particular group, the WASPS, the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants he knew well. In his sweet, sentimental, slightly serious, often silly play “The Dining Room,” he lavishes his particular form of flattery brilliantly well.

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 Square One Theatre Company’s latest offering weekends until Sunday, March 22.

Stratford Academy in Stratford at 719 Birdseye Street 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 blend of passages of time. 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 – Ryan Hendrickson, Josie Kulp, Bruce Murray, Priscilla Squiers, Danielle Sultini and David Victor – 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 is the sturdy table built in 1898 and the occupants who are all WASPS, Gurney’s favorite culture, 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. Tom Holehan serves as the master maitr’d who 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 ($22 and seniors $20), call Square One Theatre Company at 203-375-8778 or online at Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 pm. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Let A. R. Gurney be your guide into a world he knew 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. The tapers are lit, the cocktails are chilling, the white tablecloth is starched and laid, and all that is missing is you.

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