MC Theatre Presents ‘The Dining Room'

October 15, 2002

Maryville College Mainstage Theatre Productions presents "The Dining Room" by playwright A.R. Gurney, October 30 - November 2 at the MC Playhouse. Show times are 7:30 PM on October 30, and 8:00 PM October 31 - November 2. Tickets are $7.50 for adults, and $5.00 for seniors (60 & over), MC faculty and staff, theatre alumni, area students (under 18) and college students with I.D. MC students are admitted free. For ticket information, call Beth Lazar at (865) 981-8150.

The Dining Room, by A. R. Gurney, is a brilliantly conceived and richly humorous theatrical tour de force (and 1982 Off-Broadway success) in which six performers portray a wide array of diverse characters as they delineate the fading lifestyle of middle and upper-middle-class American WASP culture, and the now neglected room that was once a vital center of family life.

The play is set in the dining room of a typical well-to-do household, the place where the family assembled daily for breakfast and dinner and for any and all special occasions. The action is comprised of a mosaic of interrelated scenes - some funny, some touching, some rueful - which, taken together, create an in-depth portrait of a vanishing species: the upper-middle-class WASP.

The actors change roles, personalities, and ages as they portray a wide variety of characters, from little boys to stern grandfathers, and from giggling teenage girls to Irish housemaids. Each vignette introduces a new set of people and events; a father lectures his son on grammar and politics; a boy returns from boarding school to discover his mother's infidelity; a senile grandmother doesn't recognize her own sons at Christmas dinner; a daughter, her marriage in shambles, pleads futilely to return home, etc. Some desire to reject the cultural traditions symbolized by the dining room and embrace the more liberated mores of modern life. Others hold on to WASP cultural traditions as if their sense of self-identity was inextricably tied to these customs. While The Dining Room is a wistful and often comic portrayal of the changes brought upon a privileged class, traced back and forth in time from the second quarter of the century to the 1980s, the overall tone of the play is critical of the Victorian heritage of WASP culture. The varied scenes of the play coalesce into a theatrical experience of exceptional range, compassionate humor, and abundant humanity.