Review: Rio Hondo’s Rendition of ‘The Dining Room’

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Review: Rio Hondo’s Rendition of ‘The Dining Room’

'The Dining Room' is a series of stand alone stories that revolve around a dining room table.

'The Dining Room' is a series of stand alone stories that revolve around a dining room table.

Marissa Valezuela

'The Dining Room' is a series of stand alone stories that revolve around a dining room table.

Marissa Valezuela

Marissa Valezuela

'The Dining Room' is a series of stand alone stories that revolve around a dining room table.

Marissa Valezuela, Reporter

Backstory 

The Dining Room is a two-act play consisting of eighteen overlapping and unrelated scenes that utilize theatrical conventions such as pantomime, non-linear timeline, double casting, and minimal costumes and set.  A.J. Gurney’s 1982 play covers seven decades of upper middle class WASP family life in New England, starting around 1900. 

Time is a fluid concept in The Dining Room. One scene often begins before the previous scene has ended. This type of seamless scene change is a convention that Gurney uses in many of his plays. In this play, these scene changes enhance the feeling of action happening in a void independent of the scenes before and after.

In a certain aspect, it’s as if the table and chairs become a character in the play. Notably, it is the only fixture that remains constant from scene to scene. While the play is written for six actors, there were a total of twenty-two actors all of whom were directed by Professor William Korf. With a play that has a total of 57 different characters who perform 17 scenes throughout the course of several decades. Korf wanted a play that focused on the actors and their representation of each character. 

Kristy Hernandez played both Aggie Williams, a twenty-seven year old, and Sandra Johnson, a nine year old. Despite the role of Aggie initially being easy for her to play, she said playing a nine year old was rather challenging. “I had to learn how to sit, talk, and even walk differently for both characters,” Hernandez said. In addition, Hernandez had to constantly remind herself the differences of each character.

 

Flier by Rio Hondo’s Theater Department
The flier for ‘The Dining Room’ that was distributed throughout the college.

Personal Experience

As a viewer, I truly admire how all my fellow peers can portray different characters in different time periods. Looking at the set, I noticed how simplicity can go a long way. There was a lot of great costuming that suited each time period they were aiming to portray. Also, the way the lights perfectly highlighted the dining room table really set the mood. I love that it was a consistent set as it was intended to be.

 Even with the actors and actresses playing young ages, there were no cringe worthy moments. They all played their roles accurately and did not over dramatize them.  Thankfully it is an easy adjustment to realize there are many stories overlapping one another. The stories move from one to the next in a fluid movement, and the one that’s coming next never impeded on the one going off.

In conclusion, I never thought of an old dining room table as being part of a vanishing tradition, a culture that is ending. Personally, whenever attending my grandmother’s house, we all eat at the dining room table. Maybe we do not have the old etiquette that is traditionally associated with the room, but there were many conversations and memories I associate with her dining room. Above all, the message of the importance of the dining room was clear. Memories are made in the dining room. The story of family is told. Love and lies are shown. There are highlights of each character’s desires. Also, the emphasize of a conflict between generations.

 

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