Delicious ‘Dining Room’ at Arctic Playhouse

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Theatre Review

By DON FOWLER

There is a scene in A.R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room,” where a college student visits his aging aunt to fulfill a class project: Explore Early Habits of Vanishing Cultures. His WASPish Aunt is insulted when she discovers that her dining room is the subject.

Prolific playwright Gurney loves to write about white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and does so in clever ways.

“The Dining Room” is set in an upper middle class household, where Gurney offers 18 short vignettes that center around the dining room table from the 1930s to the 1980s.

Six actors play the roles of various family members and visitors, with scenes blending into each other, a clever method that takes the audience a few minutes to “get into,” but succeeds nicely, thanks to some sharp directing by Sandy Cerel.

The actors assume a variety of ages and personalities, requiring them to make some quick costume changes and, more important, persona changes.

Three men and three women carry out the roles smoothly, with veteran actress Cindy Killavey standing out in her roles as a young girl, Irish maid and senile grandmother.

The vignettes move from serious to poignant to funny to topical for their time. Discussions of divorce, homosexuality and promiscuity are handled very gently, as they were when written and performed in the early ’80s, making the play slightly dated at times but also universal. Everything happens at or around the dining room table, the symbol of the changing family values and customs over the years.

The play will certainly cause audience members to think about their younger days when the family always gathered around the table for dinner and how that custom has changed.

Cardi’s donated the table and chairs to the Arctic Playhouse, which is selling raffle tickets to raise money for moving expenses as the 90-seat theatre plans to move down the road to larger facilities. The winning number will be drawn after the final performance on June 3.

The Arctic Playhouse is located at 117 Washington St. in downtown West Warwick. Further performances are schedule for May 25, 26, and 27 and June 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. For reservations call 573-3443. Tickets are $18.

We found the theatre to be very intimate and welcoming, as volunteers greet you as you enter, offering free coffee, popcorn and cookies. Nice touch!

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