Recommended *** For those of you familiar with the intimate Glenview “storefront”, Oil Lamp Theater, you know that this space is one of the few that can work with a small production. Limited seating allows for every audience member to have a great view of the stage, which for this play is as deep as I have even seen it. The play is “The Dining Room” written by AR Gurney (This theater company has done all of his works). This 2 hour production (two acts with an intermission) is a study of people and how the actual “dining room” either influenced them, distracted them, teased them, or embraced them. The time period is the 20th century and Director Keith Gerth (who by the way started Oil Lamp Theatre in HIS “dining room”) smoothly takes us through many characters portrayed by six very capable actors.
There may be times when one can get confused as the transitions from one scene to another take place while another scene seems to still have somewhere to go, but it is the myriad of stories, each centering on “The Dining Room” that keeps us involved. Since some actors take on roles that are very different from who they actually are, it is easy to get confused. If one listens to what they are saying and watches the interplay between them, it is far easier to understand who they are in each of the many scenarios Gurney has created. I know that Gerth truly understands the nature of the playwright and does his job.
The set is a wonderful dining room , filled with props that will take you back to the days of visiting Grandma’s house on a Sunday or festive occasion. While Gurney is depicting his characters as the soon to be extinct W.A.S.P. ( White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), the dining room focal point can be important to every and any ethnic group. In the Jewish home it was Fridays nights and holy days, in the Irish home, Sunday dinner as well as other holidays. I know from my African-American friends, this is also a Sunday after church tradition as well. In fact, I am certain that every ethnic group had a similar experience. Of course, today, people eat in the kitchen, the family room and sometimes the living room, and the art of dinner conversation is long gone.
The six actors; Stephen Smith ( who handles the older roles and does a great little boy), Eric Bays, Michael Ermel ( who surprisingly is very sharp in character development), Amanda Meyer (as young girl, maid and mother), Lara Dohner (also a mother, maid and seducer) and Daniella Ruskin in several roles as well, are all energetic and have the ability to change characters quickly, exiting thru the kitchen door as one person and coming back on stage thru the other door as someone else, complete with changes of costume or accessories.
While this is not a great play, it is an interesting theatrical experience. The intertwining of many lives as they connect through the one room in the house that at one time, was the important room for families to gather in and dine, eat and socialize. “The Dining Room” will continue at The Oil Lamp Theater, located at 1723 Glenview Road (just west of Waukegan Road) in Glenview thru February 26th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets are $35 (students $20) and can be ordered by calling 847-834-0738 or online at www.oillamptheater.org
There is FREE parking on the street and in the lot adjacent to the theater. This is a BYO theater. Bring a bottle of wine, they will uncork and pour for you as you can take it into the theater. They also offer M & M’s and nuts for your enjoyment as well as some great fresh cookies. If you are new to the North Shore, they will make you feel at home.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Dining Room”