Stratford stages A.R. Gurney’s ‘The Dining Room’
Square One Theatre Company, Stratford: If anyone knows how to describe the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) way of life, it is the late A.R. Gurney. He grew up in a just the kind of family that is portrayed so well in Square One’s current production of “The Dining Room.” It is in this room where dozens of people meet and greet each other. What is so special about this play is that only six actors get to play all the characters who range in age from young to old and in status from the elite to the working class.
Tom Holehan directs the show with his usual combination of confidence and charm, while the talented actors fascinate the audience with their abilities to move from adulthood to childhood by simply walking on and off the stage for a moment or two. So refined are the actors’ skills that they take on the idiosyncrasies of the ages their characters represent most convincingly. Through their facial expressions, the way they walk, talk, and even look at the others on the set, they take on scene specific ages and status.
Featured among the talented cast is Priscilla Squiers, a frequent and favorite actress in our area theaters, including the Warner Theater in Torrington. Considering the myriad roles she has portrayed so well, it’s difficult to determine which performance was her best, but this production allows her to show off her amazing abilities and is definitely a runner-up to the best ever.
David Victor has performed in many of Square One’s productions including “Time Stands Still,” and Gurney’s “Ancestral Voices.” He has perfected playing a WASP in love with his dining room, while Ryan Henderson plays the architect trying to convince Victor’s character to turn the elaborate dining room into two far more efficient rooms. Henderson has performed in many area theaters including the New Haven Theatre Company and performs well here.
Bruce Murray can be as stern as a pompous elitist father demanding proper manners from his children or as convincing as a lover who is nearly caught by his lover’s son. Murray has also played the community theater circuit including productions at Eastbound Theatre and Nutmeg Actors Rep Theatre.
Danielle Sultini moves with ease and polish when she’s the head of the house or the hired help. A popular and regular actor at Square One, she has film credits as well as multiple awards for outstanding performances. Josie Kulp has performed at Long Wharf and the Warner Theatre as well as other area theaters. She can move gracefully from a child wanting ice cream by scrunching her nose and pouting to a well mannered and fine lady.
The cast is terrific and so is the scenery. Robert Mastroni is responsible for the stunning set and deserves an “A+” for the set’s effective and functional design. These actors move on and off the stage quickly and in and out of the dining room without a problem.
The play is about the decline of the WASP era and though mentioned in the play, especially when a young man comes to photograph his old aunt’s dining room complete with her china and crystal for his anthropology class, more focus on the dying class would serve this fine play even better. The production runs through March 22. Box office: 203-375-8778.
Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.