Review by Danny Gaisin
A.R. Gurney’s early 80’s NY Studio Theatre play ‘The Dining Room’ is a pastiche of brief vignettes about American WASPs of the era interacting in and around a formal dining room. The locale may be common; but the relationships, personas and incidents are separate and singular. What makes the Dining Room so special is having the eighteen essays acted by only six thespians.
With only minor costume and accessory changes, the actors must create the identities and personalities of the fifty characters that are represented.
The age spread is from my own ‘old fart’ stage to that of spoiled teenagers raiding Daddy’s liquor cabinet. We observe the ‘veddy British’ New England snobs as well as the servants and their demanded obsequiousness. There is infidelity; scion/maid affection; avuncular bullying; dissolution of an offspring’s marriage and the exceptionally touching bit about a senile or Alzheimer’s-suffering grandmother who can’t recognize her own offspring. Staging this play is a challenge for a director, and a dramatic exercise for his or her cast. Fortunately, GALAHAD THEATRE PRODUCTIONS utilize its “A-Team”.
The artistic supervisor is Yo Mustafa and he has incorporated his own undisputed acting talents in painting each episode into an overall mosaic. His flow and continuity demand that the audience stay alert and totally focused. The Devil certainly is in the details and Mustafa’s eye & hand are noticeable in even the smallest facet or dramatic pause. This is another successful piece of “ART”!
The cast is comprised of Susan Applewhaite; Nick Biskupek; Vince Carlin;Pamela Keys; Chris Reid& Kayla Whelan. All of these talented actors have previously received accolades on these pages, but this writer has never witnessed such uniform expertise…there isn’t a single weak portrayal in any of the fifty characterizations. They are consistently on-the-mark and totally credible.
Some time ago, director Mustafa responded to my query about why his WEST presentation of ‘Elephant Man’ utilized so little makeup. His explanation was a belief that true acting can belie the need for accoutrements. He proved it then; and he and his cast reaffirm that belief.
Only complaint, there’s ‘flouncing’ in The Dining Room… readers may recall that this particular scribe hates ‘flouncing’. The play has two more performances; Today [Saturday] at 2pm and 8:00 this evening. Locale – the RBC Theatre in Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre.