Engaging Cast in an Unwieldy ‘Room’

Share via

In the current Theatre 40 production, the director and actors lounge comfortably about A. R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room,” unaware of the occasional discomfort of their guests.

The action transpires in a formal dining room--an architectural luxury as anachronistic as the Eastern Seaboard WASP about whom Gurney writes with such intimate authority. The cast has the task of playing literally dozens of WASPs interacting over the course of decades.

David Rose directs with a touch of travesty that tends to squelch the laughs in this elegant but dated comedy of manners. When the actors portray children, Rose gives them free rein to be cloyingly cute, pigeon-toed moppets. When they play the elderly, they are lavishly creaky and doddering. Dialects, when assumed, are stilted. (At intervals, one actor even breaks into inexplicably Yiddish cadences. Go figure.)


Still, it’s an engaging ensemble that does a yeoman’s service in a difficult play. The cast includes Jay Bell, Marcus Smythe, Jeff Harlan, Suzanne Goddard and Barbara Keegan. The evening this reviewer attended, Lori Thimsen filled in for cast member Cecelia Riddett, who was called away on a family emergency. Thimsen had only a couple of days to prepare for her role, yet fitted snugly into the flow of the play, turning in a performance as polished as any. Who said that all drama was on stage?

* “The Dining Room,” Theatre 40, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends July 10. $14-$17. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.