Appetite Theatre presents A.R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room”
A.R. Gurney’s 1981 play “The Dining Room” is absolutely worthy of the designation of literature.
It used to be true that the dining room was the center of a household. It was where families gathered for a collective meal. Gurney’s play brings the audience the story of a dining room through the years, from a child’s birthday party to a Thanksgiving meal where the aged matriarch can’t remember the names of her gathered family. Along the way there are affairs both lovely and tawdry as we meet the faces who have stepped into The Dining Room and sat at it’s enduring table throughout time.
Currently, Chicago’s Appetite Theatre Company is presenting the play at the Charnel House, a former funeral home turned performance venue. (Yep, I said funeral home. It’s delightfully creepy.)
Directed by Basia Kapolka, the show moves briskly and rarely dawdles. The six actors – Mark Dodge, Jesse Aukeman, Eric Prahl, Kelly Helgeson, Betty Lorkowski, and Kelly Yacono – take on all their roles with dedication and smarts. All the actors have strong moments and stand-out characters. Yacono, in particular, charms as (among others) a precocious little girl, an over-eager housemaid, and an elderly woman.There’s also a touching scene featuring Mark Dodge as an aged father talking over his plans for his funeral with his son that may have brought a hint of a tear to my eye.
Though a slightly odd choice has been made to costume them all in Victorian-esque costumes (even in scenes where pop-tarts and TV are discussed) it’s not enough to distract for long from the talent on display and the well-crafted story being brought to life. The set design, though uncredited to any one person in particular in the program, is positively lovely and elegant.
For charming and well-done theater, spend an evening in “The Dining Room.”
The show runs Fridays and Saturdays through November 20th at 8pm. Check out AppetiteTheatre.com for more info.
(And, for those unfamiliar with the area – like me – enjoy a pre-show meal at Gloria’s Cafe. Though it looks like a dive of a restaurant from outside, it’s fantastic. My friend and show date Amanda and I needed a place to nosh and stumbled in, and left having eaten a remarkable meal. Also, it’s a full service coffee shop.)