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The Dining Room Review

April 12, 2010

Madison Shimoda
The Dining Room Review

If your family is anything like mine, you might remember the stilted formal meals you had with your family in the dining room when relatives or important guests came to visit. Judging by the audience’s fidgetiness and awkward laughter at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum on Wednesday, people were less than happy to relive those uncomfortable moments—meaning that the actors did their job well.

The play The Dining Room by A. R. Gurney, directed by Cory Davia ’10, is set in a dining room and tells eighteen different stories, each scene not lasting more than ten to fifteen minutes. This demanded talent from the actors, an ability to distill the essence of a character in the short time they were allotted; some actors succeeded, others fell short. Overall, the strong actors truly carried the play and I found it to be an enjoyable performance.

Will Kahn '12 in his cable-knit Ralph Lauren-esque sweaters and his slacks portrayed a compelling Northeastern, WASP-y father. The scene where Kahn, as the father of a daughter considering divorce, has an awkward conversation with his daughter (Bri Riggio '10) about her separation from her husband is perhaps the highlight of the play. Both Kahn and Riggio made us cringe in our seats as the conversation got increasingly more awkward by the minute (“Dad, there’s another woman”). The pregnant tension was absolutely thrilling.

Max Sterling '10’s portrayal of a grandfather lecturing his grandson (Will Kahn '12) about the pointlessness of a private school education reminded me so much of conversations I’ve had in the past with male relatives. Sterling’s demeanor, body movements, and voice were impeccable and Kahn’s dejected replies were adorable. The housekeeper’s final remarks—“Go get your grandfather’s checkbook before he falls asleep”—were delivered with just the right amount of derision, advice, and approval.

A professor at my table mentioned that the actors did the best they could with the play. Perhaps he said this because the characters’ difficult relationships with their dining rooms seemed outdated and irrelevant in California where most people no longer have formal dining rooms. For a relatively young audience like CMC, a different play might have been better received.

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