A vanishing species in The Dining Room

Fifty-six characters, ten actors, six chairs and one pianist.

Bellevue College Drama Dept.’s production of A.R Gurney’s The Dining Room chronicles through time the humor, drama, and human experience of what its playwright called ‘a vanishing species’: the upper-middle class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP).

A few particularly versatile actors, poignant and occasionally mysterious lighting, impressively effective time-warp choreography, and a generally clever script make the production, directed by Tammis Doyle, a should- see.  The play’s next and final showings will run this weekend, in the college’s Stop Gap theatre, May 28-30 at 7:30 p.m.

Growing up, growing old, sexuality, religion, old values, new values, generation gaps, materialism and class distinction overlap as the Dining Room takes us briefly and acutely through the twenty-first century and into the lives of remarkably diverse families and individuals.

With a full, independent story and set of characters contained in each of its 18 scenes, you will say a quick goodbye to a few very intriguing characters just after bidding them hello.

Actor Paul Barrois, playing characters ranging from an eager-to-please, school-age boy with a lisp to an alcoholic, worn out father of adult children, pulls of every character with self-deprecating humor and a convincing, contemplative sadness.  Barrois has acted on the stage for 15 years, and played in the college’s Rocky Horror Show and in Romeo and Juliet.

Cady Smola, a second-time Irene Ryan acting award winner, is an idealized, depression-era mother one scene, and a post-women’s revolution, entrepreneurial lesbian the next. With a dramatic, deliberate style suited for theater, Smola becomes every character she plays.

Actors Sean Altuna and Susannah Bruck flourish in a few of their well-executed, age-inappropriate portrayals. Altuna has played in several BC productions including M.A.S.H., Fiddler on the Roof, and Music Man, and for Bruck this marks her third production at the college, after The Importance of Being Earnest and Music man.

For Amy Balazs and Charlie Herzog, who have stayed behind the scenes in previous BC productions, the Dining Room represents their first full-length on-stage appearances. Balazs has stage-managed and Herzog has worked in lighting and stage design for several college shows.

Actress Danielle Martija played in Music Man; actor John Tembreull, an Irene Ryan nominee, played in several productions, including Cabaret and Pippin; actor Edward Wang played in Romeo and Juliet, Untitled #2, and Music man, and Kelsey Maher has played in several shows, such as Romeo and Juliet.

Despite a few unconvincingly portrayed characters, the actors usually meets the challenge of performing in the Dining Room.

Tapping out songs ranging from John Lennon to Shirley Temple, pianist Joy Brown usually keeps the tone of the play clear and united. The time period of each scene, however, might be more distinct if the style of musical arrangement varied more.

Nevertheless, Brown demonstrates an impressive musical talent.

Brian Healy, set/light designer, uses a few eye-tricks to make the most of an essentially simple set. With four doors and a little mirror-action, Healy makes the set, whose centerpiece is just a dining room table, feel substantially larger.