Jeff Smith 7 a.m., March 30
The Dining Room
A.R. Gurney Jr.'s nostalgia-laced drama unfolds like a kaleidoscope. It's literally the life of a handsome 1910 table and the Northeastern WASP dining room where it flourished for at least six decades. You could call the two-act play What the Table Saw.
Eras overlap and intertwine: World Wars I and II, Korea, the '60s, "Me Decade" self-centeredness. And life moves through the room from infancy and birthdays to a touching scene where a father outlines his funeral arrangements in minute detail to his emotionally choked oldest son. Family traditions and infidelities abound (including a need to save face at the club when Binky Byers impugns a relative's honor). Dining Room has 57 characters and can frustrate, at times, with a "hey, wait" quality. Gurney will build a scene then cut it off and jump to another while drama from the previous scene starts taking hold (what becomes of the hippie daughter, for example, rejected by her husband and father?). Though glib with individuals, the play weaves a complex tapestry about a dying institution. Scripps Ranch Theatre's production constitutes a step up in class for the company. The play's demands could create gridlock, but director Eric Bishop gives it an admirable fluidity as scenes and eras flow gracefully. His six-person cast (sometimes changing Sydney Williams's multi-period costumes backstage in seconds) handle myriad assignments with few glitches. Greg Hall heads the group in at least nine roles ranging from a giddy young lad to the father planning his funeral. And Sherri Allan registers as the hippie daughter cast adrift (Dagmar Fields, Allison MacDonald, Max Macke, and Kate Nelson make useful contributions). Maureen Dolan, the props manager, deserves special mention. When the script calls for Waterford crystal or the distinctive clink of hand-blown Steuben glass, Dolan delivers. Even when Gurney requires a butter knife with a pistol-handle, one emerges from the velvet silverware case. Now that's attention to detail!
Worth a try.
When: Ongoing until Saturday, October 4, 2008
- Sundays, 2pm
- Fridays, 8pm
- Saturdays, 8pm