Review:The Dining Room (Down n'out Productions)

By: Adelina Fabiano

“The Dining Room” Toronto is a feast for theatre lovers

Growing up in an Italian home, dinner was often the most important time of the day. It was here where we conversed about the day’s highlights, laughed, cried, fought, hugged and talked about all things that seemed so trivial at the time, but so meaningful now that I look back. My mom’s kitchen was truly the heart of the home.

In The Dining Room, American playwright A. R. Gurney writes a series of vignettes about various families and their day-to-day sit down interactions in and around the dining room. The play begins forty years ago to present day. Taking a look at the once formal act of a sit-down dinner and its function as a means to communicate, meet, and commiserate, Down n’Out Production of The Dining Room not only offers its audience a glimpse of this much-needed ritual, but offers us outstanding performances, and a smooth and seamless staging of one story to the another.

Set in the elegant and historical Campbell House Museum, The Dining Room couldn’t have been staged in a more accurate place. Timeless and enchanting, the actors manoeuvred gracefully around the old antique dining room table bringing it back to life.

Meticulously and brilliantly directed by Jonathan Geenen, the play combines actors playing multiple roles transitioning from one short vignette to another. As one story ends, another story begins with actors shifting roles, changing costumes and characters as they move from one scene to the next.

Jonathan Geenen choreographed and directed each scene with such detail, ease and precision; it made for a very fast paced and entertaining evening. Overcoming the challenge that would have come from directing a show with so many stories to tell is truly a testament to Geenen’s outstanding direction and vision.

Of course, the show could not have been fully executed without the calibre of exceptional performances by the entire cast of six actors. Terrence Bryant and Lorna Wilson show depth in all their roles and are especially hilarious as the two young children during the children’s party scene. Casting them in what was least expected, it was quite humorous to have the two eldest cast members playing young children. Their mannerisms vividly depict the wide-eyed children we once were at birthday parties.

Over the series of vignettes, Bryant goes on to deliver a moving monologue outlining his own funeral arrangements as he plays the overbearing, non-demonstrative and demanding father. Bryant beautifully portrayed the unexpected vulnerability beneath the father’s hardened shell.

Madeleine Donohue was amusing as the stern and controlling mother as she methodically rearranged the silverware upon the dining table and demonstrated proper finger bowl etiquette. Alison Deon and Michael Spasevski also show talent and versatility in taking on various roles.

Clearly, this is quite a professional ensemble, each performer brilliantly supporting the other.

At times outrageously funny, satirical, and poignant, The Dining Room is entertaining and touching. It was a treat to be in an intimate audience, as there are only 40 seats available for each performance.

Undoubtedly, the actors performed with the same gusto that they would have for a sold out crowd. I hope others will take time out of their busy schedules and enjoy an exclusive evening at The Dining Room.

Details:

– The Dining Room produced by Down n’Out Productions is playing at the Campbell House Museum ( 160 Queen Street West) from January 18th to February 6th, 2011 with a Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2:30pm.

-Tickets cost $25 with a Sunday ( Pay what you can). Tickets may be purchased by calling 416-5970227 or by emailing campbellhouse@bellnet.ca. There are only 40 seats available for each peformance.

-There will be a $49 Dinner/Show Pacakages available from January 28th until February 5th with evening shows only as part of www.toronto.com/winterlicious

Photograph of Lorna Wilson, Michael Spasevski, Alison Deon, Terrence Bryant, Benjamin Clost and Madeleine Donohue taken by Kristy Kennedy.