Susan S. Yeske: Review
Town & Country meets the challenge in "The Dining Room"
Most actors prepare for one role during a play, working hard to offer their interpretation of a single character.
Imagine preparing for eight or nine roles, performed during a 90-minute show, shedding mannerisms and clothes to become mother, father, 6-year-old child, maid, stern grandfather, boy home from boarding school, giggling teenage girl, dying old man and more.
Eight actors did exactly that, performing 54 different characters in the play “The Dining Room” which debuted last weekend and continues weekends through Oct. 12 at Town & Country Players in Buckingham.
Not only did the actors slip easily in and out of their personas, but they appeared to greatly enjoy it, as did their director, Jean Brenner, and the audiences.
“The Dining Room” is a play by A.R. Gurney, set in a well-to-do American household with a stately dining room complete with a long table and chandelier. The set remains the same throughout 18 scenes and two acts, while the actors make their magic to convince you they are the variety of characters they represent.
Gurney is best known for his depictions of upper middle class WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), and “The Dining Room” is his quintessential piece. Bouncing his scenes around the 20th century, he shows a lifestyle long gone as well as one that was rapidly losing ground when the play debuted in 1982.
Much credit for the T&C production goes to Brenner, an experienced director who doled out the parts to her eight talented performers. Despite the fact that the youngest actor is over 40 and several well beyond that, it was easy to imagine them as children, teenagers, middle-aged parents and senior citizens.
The scenes flow easily into each other with barely a pause until the intermission, even though they are random rather than sequential. One might be a child’s birthday party with a mother and her erstwhile lover attempting a brief meeting, while they next might be a holiday dinner set decades earlier or later.
This is a play with depth and range, exploring much of the human condition in the briefest of vignettes.
Their roles are too numerous to mention, but each of the actors deserves praise for their willingness to take on such varied roles and deliver them with panache and expression. No, you don’t like all of the characters, but isn’t that the idea? Rarely does a storyline involve only happy people.
Offering top-shelf entertainment for a modest price were Larry Krevitz, Jean Lautsen, Ken Marblestone, Jo Page, Joe Perignat, John Pinto, Laura Scotti and Laura Wilson-O’Connor. All are experienced community theater performers with other jobs; all deserve praise.
As an added bonus, Brenner added two local dignitaries to each performance. The one I saw included a spirited Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia and lively former Congressman Jim Greenwood. Both very much got into the act as 6-year-olds enjoying a party. Marseglia pronounced the experience “a lot of fun” and said she would do it again.
In future performances, which continue through Oct. 12, you might see guest appearances by Doylestown Hospital CEO Jim Brexler, urologist Dr. Albert Ruenes, state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, and Doylestown Borough Mayor Libby White.
I also must offer a tip of the hat to the behind-the-scenes talent, producer Jesse Roy and stage manager Bill Brenner, who kept things running smoothly.
For charming, fast-moving live entertainment performed by talented actors with an experienced director at the helm, you can’t beat “The Dining Room” at Town & Country Players.
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