I remember my grandmother’s dining room as elegantly furnished, even more elegant than Scripps Ranch Theatre’s current production of The Dining Room. Like the theatre, the table, was elegant with carved chairs and a huge buffet whose legs, like the table were thick and carved. My parents followed the tradition, but with a much simpler design. Even today our dining room is many steps away from the kitchen and ready to entertain eight guests. It includes a glass buffet not unlike the set at the theatre.
However, that’s where any similarity ends. A. R. Gurney’s play deals with a collection of generations and families and their relationships as seen in the dining room. Eric Bishop’s direction of this very complex play is excellent. The play requires both directing know-how and the genius of a traffic cop keeping the action moving is an interesting manner, since Gurney’s specific instructions require that action from scene to scene often overlaps.
This is an actor’s play. The seven actors play 57 different roles. Often they have mere seconds to change personas and costumes. Not difficult enough? Add that they also go from young child to the very aged. This director cast well.
So to each of you take your bows when I write your name.
Thank you one and all for your excellent performances.
The Dining Room requires much from the audience. It requires that you are ever attentive. There are 17 scenes, 17 changes of settings, 17 changes of the walls. Wall hangings are changed by the cast or by the magic of Mitchell Simkovsky’s effective lighting design and Dixon Fish’s set design that effectively used scrimmed walls, which allowed hangings to magically appear.
The play is a social commentary. It bares many truths about the upper middle class WASPs, at least as seen by the playwright 27 years ago. It is a room of memories. The old cliche “if rooms could talk” rings true as this room talks to the audience through the actual people. There are the two girls that steal some booze, a young anthropology student characterizing the room as a commentary on the last stages of capitalism, a children’s birthday party. It is a room often filled with tension and also with hope and laughter.
The stage of Scripps Ranch Theatre is filled with seven actors of excellence, able to move smoothly from character to character. These many dining rooms express much about society through the last 100 years. Be alert, listen and watch carefully, and enjoy a marvelous theatre experience.
The Dining Room is on the boards of Scripps Ranch Theatre weekends through October 4, 2008. It is located at the Legler Benbough Theatre, Alliant International University, 10455 Pomerado Road, in Scripps Ranch. For reservations and information call 858 578-7728 or go to their website at 222.scrippsranchtheatre.org.