The cast of the 25th anniversary of A.R. Gurneys The Dining Room, which enters previews Tuesday at the Harold Clurman Theater.
Dining Room in no need of remodeling
By Jerry Tallmer
It is like a string of pearls, or what you glimpse from one subway train when it is being passed by another scene, scene, scene, scene, each scene, each vignette conveying a moment, a life, a relationship, a crisis, a stasis, an attitude, an essence, a turning point, all in this one big old honorable dining room that is many dining rooms before the play is out.
A real-estate agent showing that noble room to a potential home-buyer. (You shouldnt have shown me this first. Youve spoiled everything else.)
A brother and sister dividing their mothers furniture, starting with the dining-room table.
An old-guard anti-New Deal father and his small son (Half of life is meeting other people. / Whats the other half, Dad? / Was that a crack?).
A young wife who needs peace and privacy to get on with her graduate studies and her job.
A mother-daughter showdown over dancing class vs. horseback riding.
A 10-year-old boy begging Annie the maid, who has worked there all his life, not to quit.
An architect whos bound and determined to reconfigure the workroom of his client, a psychiatrist (Suppose we open this up here, slam a beam in here, break through here
), and then suddenly tenses up with emotional memory. The client, after a pause: Do you want to tell me about it?
A childrens birthday party, many kids, much excitement, that all of an instant, as the candles are being blown out, reveals, like a flash picture, the adulterous affair between one of the mommies and one of the daddies.
A grouchy grandfather laying down the law of common sense.
More John OHara bite: The unexpected return from prep school of a 17-year-old who walks in on his mothers adulterous affair (Oh mom).
And so on and so forth until the big final Thanksgiving family reunion the entire cast sitting and gabbing around that table.
An entire cast of six: three men, three women.
The play is The Dining Room. It was the big breakthrough for playwright A.R. (Pete) Gurney at Playwrights Horizons almost exactly 25 years ago, and is being brought to the fore again now its first major New York City revival in a Keen Company staging by Jonathan Silverstein at the Harold Clurman on 42nd Streets Theater Row.
Thornton Wilder in The Long Christmas Dinner had a dining