"We don't have dining rooms in Hong Kong so I think I'm missing some of the jokes."- Sam
"I liked the kid's birthday party best."- Michelle
"I don't particularly care for the script."- Clara
"I liked the last ten minutes of Act 1"- Jeremy (Who was VERY late to Act One) *burn*
"Very sweet."- Natalie
"Sara is great!"- Matthew
The Dining Room by A.R. Gurney is like indulging in a fancy 12 course meal. There are little plates, big plates, intermessos and sweet treats. There is a palette cleanser or two. There is sure to be great company to help pass the time and a lot of booze (hopefully). Sure, there are some courses that are better than others but overall the meal is made up by a great cast of characters who weave great stories together over the hours. I enjoyed my evening with ACT as they took on Gurney's award winning play. Of course, there are things that can always be improved upon but overall it was money well spent as you could tell that the production crew spent a hell of lot of time (and money) on that set and props list. Only the Saturday matinee has tickets left! So if you're available Saturday at 3pm I highly recommend you get your butts down to box office and pick them up! It's worth the money as it is a very high quality show production wise.
Let's talk production...
A special kudos to the Props Team who did an excellent job making sure it looked period correct, fancy and for the real photos of the cast on the walls! It was hard work and I appreciate it! It was beautifully done!
Another pat on the back is deserving to Shift Company who designed the program for The Dining Room, it was super cute and one to remember! I'm sure it cost a lot of money to produce and we the audience appreciated the craftsmanship that went into it. It added another dynamic to the evening.
Now there were production things I didn't care for. I didn't like the wigs but I understand that in HK it's really hard to get decent ones. My favorite hair moment was Sara's hair in the birthday party. I think other than age moments we could have done without the wigs because there is the suspension of disbelief in the world of theatre. If you tell us they are a different character we'll go with you. You don't need to put a bad wig on them. But it could just be that a bad wig is one of my pet peeves....
There were also a couple opening night cue issues. I'm sure they will be ironed out in the next couple days. Music was FAR too loud in scene one. I know the Director loves his Vitamin String Quartet but it was distracting from the action in the scene.
The great thing about this show is that there is something for everyone. If there is a scene you don't like it'll be over in ten minutes or less and you can move onto another story. Another great thing is that every person can relate to one story. I asked Director, Jonathan Brantley, which scene was the one he connected the most with and he said his was the Grandfather scene in Act 1. My scene was the one with Alzheimer's. I know some people didn't care for this scene in the audience but trust me when I tell you that the script is VERY accurate to what someone goes through when you have a loved one who forgets who you are due to dementia.
Jonathan Brantley says the reason he picked the show is that he loves the social commentary that it has about the American family and society. He thinks of it as a museum piece. An homage to a society that is fading, ala the anthropology scene in Act 2. WASP is a derogatory term for the upper class in America. And they are a bit of a dying breed especially in this tough economy. I wonder if someone should update the script to examine the WASPS in this current economy and during the Clinton era.
I felt the strongest person in the cast was Sara Bulckaert. I saw her do the workshop for The Vagina Monologues a couple months ago but this time she knocked it out of the park! She was really stellar. All her characters were different. She had excellent physicality, she was likable and had excellent dyanamics in her vocals.
The strongest overall scene was the birthday party in Act 1. Everyone committed 100%, it had excellent vocals, physicality and was hilarious! Neil Runcieman's strongest scene was the one about the gay brother. I felt his vocal work especially helped solidify the character. I also liked the scene in Act 1 with Jenny Hann and Adam Walker as the children sitting at the table with their Dad in the 1930's. Josh Blue as Mike was also VERY funny! (So many delightful nuggets in this play, so little time...)
The weak moment in the show I would have to say it was the ending. The monologue delivered by Brandy Stern felt very stagnant and the pacing seemed off. At times I struggled to hear her and it seemed the show ended on a flat note rather than a crescendo. I would just recommend really committing and pushing vocally through the moment. Monologues are hard but the end of the play shouldn't be so... anti-climactic. Coupled with the super serious bow it was a bit of Debbie Downer...
As a note, I recommend eating before hand. The flyer says that the show is 105 minutes. This is NOT the case. We got out at 10:30 tonight! EEP! Part of this was probably due to a late start and people being lazy coming back from the bar at intermission but the show is running a bit longer than expected so have something to nibble on before hand or you'll be starving!!!!!
In conclusion, I normally write 5-6 pages of notes with each show I see. With this show I wrote 3. I think that is the best example I have for how much I enjoyed myself. Now, I will agree with audience members that some of the jokes are very American. But I think anyone can find a bit of their family experience in this production. And if you can't then at least you can find appreciation in the high quality set and props design that was brought about under the stellar production management of Lara Genovese. Bravo bella!
Tickets still available for Saturday Matinee at 3pm, Fringe Club!Get 'em while they're hot!
I recommend it! You'll really enjoy yourself!