'The Dining Room' Starts Run Tonight
Wit and drama are the highlights on the menu in "The Dining Room," the latest production of the Sandbox Players Community Theatre.
Presented from tonight until April 18 at the Sunrise Theater, A. R. Gurney's comedy of manners showcases the talents of 16 Sandhills area actors. "The Dining Room," which opened in New York in 1982 and earned Gurney a Pulitzer Prize nomination, focuses on the one room in the house that was once the hub of American family life.
Gurney wrote the play as a series of short vignettes, each a scene of family life. Set in a time when families of certain means sat down to breakfast, lunch and dinner in the formal dining room, the multiple scenes overlap and intertwine - some humorous, some sad, others meaningful and touching.
Guiding this slice of American life is the well-known area director and producer Rod Harter. Although the play is usually produced with six actors playing numerous roles, Harter says, "Because this is community theater, I chose to involve as many people on stage as possible, and cast a fair cross-section of young and experienced talent to prove the viability of community theater within our cultural realm once again."
Harter believes that this is an appropriate play for this time.
"Even though it was written in the '80s, it has held up well," he says. "The language lends itself to the current situation, and it is also funny and entertaining."
The 16 actors he chose still play multiple roles in the more than 20 scenes. Harter cast the show with an eye to the talent that was available, and he had a wide range of ages of prospects that came to auditions.
"In this particular show, it is interesting that with so many characters on stage, it takes the primary emphasis off the individual actors, and puts it on the story and the dynamics of the play," he says.
Loretta Aldridge and Kimberly Corrigan are among the actors who are familiar to area audiences. Both of them, fresh from their portrayals in the Southern spoof "Dearly Departed," are joined by Don Bridge and Randy Rime, also well known on area stages, who appeared in the same show. Their parts in "The Dining Room" range from Loretta Aldridge's very proper lady who haughtily preserves the value of her culture and its manners to Kimberly Corrigan's poignant scene as a young career woman whose life has collapsed around her and who pleads with her parents to let her move back in with them.
Randy Rime plays the father in that scene, as well as one with his real-life wife, Sarah Edwards. They portray a Depression-era couple, when the man of the house was the ruler of their world, and his wife was relegated to being ruler of the household. In a funny scene, Don Bridge, as a handyman who comes to repair the dining room table, gets Sarah to crawl around on the floor underneath the table as they inspect the needed repairs, and he also lends his considerable talent to a scene dealing with sibling rivalry.
Other well-known actors and actresses who have been seen in many productions presented by Moore OnStage and Sandhills Little Theatre are Vertrees and Alice Hollingsworth and Sara Schrock. The Hollingsworths each play three parts as they bring humor and empathy to scenes that focus on the changing viewpoints of a disappearing culture. Sara Schrock, who has been featured more often in musical productions rather than straight plays, uses her dramatic ability to portray a harried mother dealing with a rebellious daughter.
Peter Pagani, an eighth-grader in New Century Middle School, is the youngest member of the cast. Despite his age, he has been seen in a wide variety of musicals, but this is his first nonmusical production. He is having fun with one of his parts in which he has a crush on the maid in the household, who is leaving, and with his efforts to get her to stay.
Brittney Davis, Jess Vest, Juliette Blanks, Rickie Jacobs and Zac Landolt are other youthful members of the cast. Newcomers to the area, but not to the stage, are Mary Alice Dale and Jessica Hughes.
All of these actors agree that they are delighted to have a chance to participate in a rejuvenation of community theater. Rod Harter says that for next year, "There have been people reading scripts to select three shows. The plans call for a fall, winter and spring production, and it is hoped to announce the schedule at the performances of 'The Dining Room.'"
Harter mentions that the greatest challenge he has faced with this production is people-power for backstage staffing and limited financial resources to make the production a "standout."
"There is an active development committee that is seeking support and doing fundraising, and we do have a solid foundation of theatrical experience in many of the key positions," he says.
Susan Paschal is doing costume design, and a newcomer, Leslie Crowe, is using her interior design capabilities to tackle the job of garnering all the sets of china, crystal and silver needed for the extensive properties list. Doug Fry is in charge of set design, and Lester Seidenberg is the lighting designer. Loretta Aldridge is in charge of box office, and Judi Hewett is the graphic designer.
Many older people in today's society look back with longing for the simplicity of life before two-income households and latch-key kids. The playwright of "The Dining Room" leaves it up to the audience.
Tickets are general admission, and are $15 for adults and $12 for students. They can be reserved by calling (910) 295-5828. Performances are at 7:15 p.m. on April 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17, with matinees at 2 p.m. on April 11 and 18.
Contact Pinehurst writer Mary Elle Hunter at email@example.com.
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