The table, the chairs, the dishes, the aroma of home-cooking and the idea of sitting down together to a family dinner is so familiar, even if today it has become more myth than reality. The tradition of family dining with its attendant human drama playing out around the table is the main course of A.R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room.” Difficult parents, political debates, troubled marriages and celebrations of life are all served up in the Pridemore Playhouse production beginning Oct. 17.
This play is the third production of the Radford University Department of Theatre and Cinema’s 2013-14 season. Set in one dining room, it depicts 18 different households and features six actors portraying over 50 characters. Together the assembled vignettes create an overall portrait of the now-vanishing upper-middle-class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant family.
“Since the different scenes take place at different points over the last hundred years, we also get to witness people at some fascinating moments in history,” says the play’s director, Tommy Iafrate, assistant professor of theatre.
“We see a housewife going back to school during the women’s lib movement, a wealthy patriarch considering the effects of the Depression on his family and an Irish maid who wants to leave domestic service.”
Iafrate adds that “The Dining Room” takes the audience on a journey over the last century of upper-class New England culture.
The cast includes students from all over Virginia, like Lucas Wade Connolly of Great Bridge; Lauren Faulkner of Rocky Gap; Bryan Glaize of Arlington; Annalee Hunter of Pulaski; Taylor Moore of Clarksville, and Kevin Schmidt of Henrico.
One of the play’s principal challenges is that it requires an acting ensemble where each member plays a large number of roles. Commenting on what he characterizes as a “fun and really rewarding rehearsal process,” Iafrate says, “As the actors explore their various characters, we’ve been thinking not only how to use our tools of physicality and voice but also about what the choices we make say on a larger scale.” He feels that one of the most interesting discoveries the ensemble has made in rehearsal is that some of the characters break stereotype.
“The Dining Room” is presented in the Pridemore Playhouse and runs Oct. 17 to 19, starting at 7:30 p.m. There will be a matinee Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. The Friday, Oct. 18 performance will be sign language interpreted.
There will be a special Curtain Up! event in conjunction with the Oct. 17 performance. This includes dinner before the show, a behind-the-scenes conversation with the director, and the show itself. Curtain Up! benefits the RU Visiting Artist Fund. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations for this must be made by Oct. 14.
Tickets are $8 for general admission, $5 for seniors (55+) and RU faculty and staff, free with an RU Student ID, and there is a group rate (10+) available. Tickets are available at the Porterfield Box Office starting Oct. 8 or by calling (540) 831-5289. The Box Office is open from noon to 6 p.m. and one hour before the start of each performance.
Tickets for the Oct. 18 and 19 performances are available two weeks prior to the event at the Hulbert Hall Information Desk (540- 831-5420).
For more information about the Radford University Department of Theatre and Cinema, visit www.radford.edu/theatre.