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The Dining Room

by AR Gurney

January 12th - February 26th

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These walls can talk – they tell amazing, beautiful and poignant stories.

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 with virtuoso skill 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 a shambles, pleads futilely to return home, etc. Dovetailing swiftly and smoothly, the varied scenes coalesce, ultimately, into a theatrical experience of exceptional range, compassionate humor and abundant humanity.

The performance runs two hours including intermission.



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The Dining Room is a warm and poignant “comedy of manners” set in the dining room of a typical upscale household somewhere in the Northeastern United States. One of Gurney’s most eloquent plays, it skillfully weaves together the stories of multiple generations in eighteen overlapping scenes, each offering a snapshot of a moment in time.  The play considers the erosion of American upper-class traditions and values through the lens of dining rituals that play out in a home’s traditional gathering place for breakfast, dinner and special occasions.

Gurney paints a compelling portrait of tradition struggling with social change against a backdrop of the universal longing for affection and comfort that binds families together. Audiences experience a full range of family situations – birthday parties, holidays, breakfasts, intergenerational squabbles, extramarital affairs – around the dining room table which serves as the hub of a civilized social universe that no longer holds.  The series of vignettes that unfold around this table — some touching, some hilarious, some moving – all examine what it means to be a part of an American family, both past and present. The tone of this gentle comedy is at times ironic and elegiac, but it is also a joyous celebration of the people who gather together in this special place.

Executive producer and director Keith Gerth believes that The Dining Room, first produced in 1981, is even more relevant today than it was when it first opened. “We’re at a time in our country when some people are longing for an idealized past, a ‘Golden Age’ that really never was. We hear a lot these days about going back once again to a time when the country was ‘great.’ Well, to me, this play asks us to think long and hard about just what that ‘greatness’ really is. The people in this play who sit around the dining room table are, in many ways, the epitome of the American success story. They seem to have everything – wealth, success, social status — but the playwright allows us see them as human, fallible, silly, and at times, as heartbreakingly sad. The world Gurney reveals to us is one in which its inhabitants have never really figured out what all their success means… what ‘greatness’ really is… and that, I think, is something we can relate to today more than ever.”

Some comments from reviewers about The Dining Room:

“…an overlapping and amusing anthology of vignettes about family and food, inherited and disowned values.”  – New York Times

“The Dining Room serves a banquet of theatrical riches.” — New York Daily News

 

IMMERSION OPPORTUNITIES

At Oil Lamp Theater, we seek to offer our guests additional opportunities to experience our theatrical works. We recommend the following additional experiences.

RACE – Radiolab, Season 5, Episode 3 (Podcast)

What exactly is the concept of “race”? Is it possible to accurately assess am individual’s race based on their appearance? What does science say about this? Radiolab’s podcast on race tackles those issues directly. When the human genome was first fully mapped in 2000, Bill Clinton, Craig Venter, and Francis Collins took the stage and pronounced that “The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.” Great words spoken with great intentions. But what do they really mean and where do they leave us?

CHEERFUL MONEY: ME, MY FAMILY, AND THE LAST DAYS OF WASP SPLENDOR by Tad Friend (Book)

Tad Friend’s family is nothing if not illustrious: his father was president of Swarthmore College, and at Smith his mother came in second in a poetry contest judged by W.H. Auden – to Sylvia Plath. For centuries, WASPs like his ancestors dominated American life. But then, in the ‘60s, their fortunes began t ofall. As a young man, Tad noticed that his family tree, for all its glories, was full of alcoholics, depressives, and reckless eccentrics. Yet his identity had already been shaped by his family’s age-old traditions and expectations. Part memoir, part family history, and part cultural study of the long swoon of the American WASP, Cheerful Money is a captivating examination of a cultural crack-up and the man trying to escape its wreckage

 THE END of WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICA by Robert P. Jones (Book)

For most of our nation’s history, Whit Christian America set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals. But especially since the 1990s, WCA has steadily lost influence, following declines within both its mainline and evangelical branches. Today, America is no longer demographically or culturally a white Christian nation.

Actor #1

portrayed by

Stephen Smith

Actor #2

portrayed by

Eric Bays

Actor #3

portrayed by

Michael Ermel

Actress #1

portrayed by

Daniella Rukin

Actress #2

portrayed by

Lara Dohner

Actress #3

portrayed by

Amanda Meyer