Chattering excitedly, the cast of The Dining Room at Workshop Theatre fills the room with energy as they await the start of rehearsal.
“Alright everyone, let’s get started.”
The cast immediately focuses, and Act I begins.
“And the dining room! You can see how these rooms were designed to catch the morning light.”
The Dining Room is a play by A. R. Gurney which features 18 vignettes set in various dining rooms, and the problems each family may face in theirs.
In director Daniel Gainey’s upcoming production, there is a cast of six actors (Ruth Glowacki, Samantha Elkins, Emily Padgett, George Dinsmore, Hans Boeschen, and Lee Williams) who portray all the characters, young or old.
“If I win the lottery, I’d form an acting troupe with this group and be a happy man. I look at them, and can’t help but smile that six intelligent and talented people trust me enough to risk themselves and their craft for my vision. It’s humbling, and they are so brilliant,” Gainey remarks.
Not only does having the cast play a multitude of characters of different ages showcase each actor’s versatility as a performer, but it also gives a sense of timelessness to the play; it shows that we all carry the issues we face throughout our lives.
“Nostalgia is a vicious plague or an effective sedative, depending on where you fall in history,” Gainey says. “Gurney is poking at a lot of nostalgic icons or scenarios, as if to make us diagnose ourselves. Are we holding on to our pasts because our futures are empty, or are we living in a past dream to avoid a current nightmare? What are we really missing, and is it worth the energy we spend to pass it to the next generation? Those questions are relevant everywhere and at all times, I think.”
This generational difference plays a major part in the production. Each scene is set in a different time with people of differing ages trying desperately to understand each other.
“That’s your generation, Dad.”
“That’s every generation.”
“It’s not mine.”
“Every generation has to make an effort.”
Although new generations may bring change, people often still hold on to what they know, and hold on to the past.
“When you walk in a room, but forget why you went there – that pull, that path that leads you to that spot over and over again – like the pause in a seeming ridiculous, heavy handed run-on sentence – that feeling is what this show is all about,” Gainey says.
Gainey’s direction of the cast and minimalist use of props and costumes draws the audience in to what the story is really about: a sense of home.
The Dining Room connects, whether it is the room or the play. But I didn’t want this to be a love letter to a room that is disappearing in many new home constructions,” Gainey says. “For me, it’s the characters. I feel like I’ve known the people before–or even be related to them–and sometimes, I think I am these characters. When a play can do that, you have to dig into it.”
The Dining Room runs at 701 Whaley’s Market Space from November 6-9. Thursday through Sunday performances are at 8 p.m. with additional matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. Go to workshop.palmettoticketing.com, or call (803) 799-6551 to reserve your tickets now.
~ Haley Sprankle