May 7, 2010

UT's Dining Room seats many families

This week, University Theater is going domestic. The Dining Room, their sixth week production, examines constancy and transformation throughout time. The dining room—the table, the wooden chairs—bears witness to the ebb and flow of life.

One decade after another seems to pass simultaneously as we watch various American upper-middle-class families adapt to and demonstrate the progression of time and its inevitable changes in society.

Situated on a beautiful, ever-changing set, where the lighting wonderfully compliments the mood of each dynamic scene, The Dining Room is one play that will take you back to the simpler times of breakfast with the parents, the confusing times of adolescence, and the progression of family life.

The actors were the most dynamic and fascinating aspect of the performance. It was phenomenal to watch them change personalities and adapt to each new environment as they changed ages, personalities, and numerous other characteristics as they took on multiple roles.

They adapted to each new role so well that it was hard to believe that the same actor or actress assumed a completely contrasting role just a moment before. The dialogue and intriguing personalities that each actor and actress executes so successfully are reasons to see the play.

As for the set, the props were simple and satisfactory: It was fun to see how the characters used the same items for different purposes and different time periods and situations. In one instance, the maid brings out a cake on a plate for a child’s birthday party while the birthday girl’s mom is teasing another boy’s dad. In a scene shortly thereafter, that same plate is used for a holiday turkey for a grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

The wonderful contrast in scenery and use of the objects, along with the constancy that the furniture and props hold, make the play seamlessly flow and transgress, like the flow and transgression of American culture throughout time.

Most importantly, one cannot ignore the significance of the dining table, which is the centerpiece and foundation for the set. All the play’s dialogue and action are structured around it. Its functions go far beyond that of a desk and place of eating: It holds a sense of timelessness in a setting where everything keeps changing and moving forward.

Food. Culture. Families. Upper-middle-class America. The Dining Room rolls all of these dynamic yet familiar concepts into one ever-constant, yet ever-changing room.

It shows the secrets, comedies, tragedies, lies, and affairs that occur in a room that so many of us have long forgotten about in our homes.

One thing is clear in this play: Despite the progressivism of American society and culture, the constant stability (as symbolized through the dining table) is what we all hope to have in our lives. UT’s Dining Room knows what it’s like when walls can talk.