Jameson Filston, Campus Carrier Arts & Living Editor
“The Dining Room” opened this weekend with a strong start. The play was a change of pace for BCTC after the musical Urinetown earlier this year.
“The Dining Room” is very much a “people” story, though it centers around a place. The story follows several groups of people through decisions and periods of transition, but never follows one story very long. Tales of comedy, intrigue, tragedy and more are woven into a tapestry of human experience, centered around an iconic location – the dining room.
My biggest reservation when going to see “The Dining Room” was that I was unsure that it would hold my attention. The play is named after a boring room in a house, and I was worried that the constantly shifting characters would confuse me too much to enjoy the stories. However, I found the story engaging and interesting, and I was immediately drawn into the lives and dilemmas of the people as the scenes changed. I attribute this both to the script and the wonderful performance of the actors.
The set design was simple, with the basic furniture of a dining room set in the middle of the room. The minimalist design used only two tables and some chairs to create a variety of scenes, connected by a constant warm lighting and simple props.
The show had arena seating, meaning that the audience surrounded the set on all four sides. This was a great way to perform the show because much of the action and dialogue happens around the table. I found myself leaning to the side in some parts since characters were obscured from view, but it was worth it for the extra sense of connection the layout gave. The close proximity and surrounding of the seats felt as though the whole audience was in the dining room with the characters.
The actors performed the complex story very well, and adapted to their many characters seamlessly . While scenes change, characters from multiple scenes are sometimes on stage at the same time. The transitions were handled without undue confusion and the tone changes were smooth for the most part. There were a couple instances where a pause lasted too long or I lost the plot for a moment, but those were far outnumbered by smooth changes. I found myself drawn into the story to the point where I barely noticed any mistakes that occured.
What I found in the delivery was a strikingly diverse set of human themes and relationships illustrated by anything from meals to moving day. The main theme of the play followed how the dining room was used less as technology and lifestyle changed, and how that affected relationships between both people and generations. The play celebrated family connections that take place around a dinner table, and how that has evolved and faded. It was a classic story about the endless march of time, and the inevitable change and progress that go with it. The show presented this theme in a unique and interesting way.
I left the Sisters Theatre feeling as though I had learned something, which was something I appreciated greatly about the production. It was a reminder to focus more on relationships and people around me, and not to get overly attached to objects or places, but rather the people that make them special. As the semester winds down and summer approaches, I appreciated this reminder, and if nothing else, this is why the production is worth a watch.