Bits and Pieces of Family Life Unfold in ‘The Dining Room’
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 15:10
Familial experiences are explored in the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre’s current production of “The Dining Room.” A high-mannered dramedy, this play analyzes 50 years of situations centered in the dining rooms of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants—the WASPs—of New England.
In two acts and two hours, “The Dining Room” glimpses the 1930s through the early 1980s, and in no particular order. Each momentary vignette lasts for generally five to seven minutes and captures conversations in a multitude of premises at the same spot—the old family dining room.
Six cast members present these scenes, which range from a young woman typing away at her term paper in the ’70s to two people discussing their extramarital affair at the woman’s daughter’s birthday party in the ’50s.
Other scenes include a son home for the weekend from Yale, barely missing his mother and uncle romancing each other at teatime; a sick grade-schooler quizzing the maid on her future; a father planning retaliations for an incident at the country club; and two high-schoolers breaking into the liquor cabinet.
Many moments were realistic. Some were very relatable. Take for instance the Thanksgiving meal at the end of Act One. Three brothers attempt to aid their senile mother in remembering, but she is stuck in her girlhood years. This vignette portrayed all too well the painful affliction of dementia and the lengths loved ones will go to in trying to help.
One other scene audiences will appreciate is the vignette of the carpenter and the divorcee. Called to inspect a beloved old table, the carpenter finds himself mutually infatuated with his newly divorced client while crawling around under the table together. A second chance at love was left open to the audience when the two agreed to work on repairing the old table as a team, ending what could very well be a scene from a budding love story.
In fact, many scenes from “The Dining Room” could take on lives of their own in other productions. Several seemed like snapshots of other plays, previews almost. On the other hand, others were not, and were mined purely for a laugh or a short reflection. A scene between a psychiatrist and an architect illustrates the former perfectly.
Another aspect of this production to admire is the one recurring character that ties everything together. A servant appearing at a breakfast in the ‘30s retires following her last dinner party in 1982, and this is just wonderful.
“The Dining Room” has no other recurring characters. All six actors have multiple roles, but this seemingly insignificant servant proves the most important in the end. She wraps up the experiences of “The Dining Room” very well, and in a play with a myriad of scenes like this, that tiny tie to two parts of the show is most appreciated indeed.
“The Dining Room” continues its run at The Stage at Island Park 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 to 19 and 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at 333 4th St. S. Advanced tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and $6 for children and are available at the box office and by phone at 701-235-6778.