Thursday, October 24, 1985
The Michigan Daily
Dining Room serves food for thought
By Seth Flicker
T's the holy of holies, the heart
and soul of the house, the shrine.
The Dining Room is a room rarely in-
* vaded by strangers and the central
element in a play opening tonight at
the Trueblood Theatre at 8 p.m.
"'It's' basically a play of
recognition," said Richard Oberlin,
visiting director of The Dining Room.
"We all have had dining rooms. It is a
place that brings the family together.
Ultimately, the dining room is a place
where rituals are formed."
The Dining Room, written by A.R.
Gurney, Jr., is a witty and playful
_ farce depicting the disintegration of
" the typical American WASP family.
The play combines a smooth mixture
of drama and comedy in a satirical
The play consists of a series of 18
short vignettes centering around the
Hall and Oates Live at the
Apollo with David Ruffin &
Eddie Kendrick (RCA)
If I could view this record as sim-
ply the latest Hall and Gates record, I
would be impressed, but this record
aspires to be much, much more than
that. The title harkens back to
* perhaps the greatest soul record
ever made, James Brown's Live and
Lowdown at the Apollo. The cover art
is explosive. The dynamic duo's
guests, David Ruffin and Eddie Ken-
drick, were both members of one of
the greatest soul acts ever, the Tem-
ptations. We are meant to view this
record not as a Hall and ates
record, but as a soul record, jam-
packed with emotions and guts, spri
'anging from a tradition of great music;
the fusion of nostalgia with today's
The first side of the record is good
enough to partially satisfy the expec-
tations that its presentation builds up.
It is a treat to hear Ruffin and Kendrick
again. Since their respective depar-
tures from the Temptations, they
have both had spotty solo careers,
with far too few successes. Ruffin has
held up especially well. His falsetto
vocals on "Get Ready" are flawless.
.Kendrick, however, is showing signs
of wear. His vocals still posess a
wrenching, raspy quality, but in his
first showcase, "Ain't Too Proud to
Beg," he is at times woefully off-key.
The numbers suffer from ab-
breviation, over-orchestration, and
superfluous saxophone solos, and thin
backing vocals, but Ruffin and Ken-
drick provide enough enthusiasm and
verve. to make one overlook these
flaws. It's fun stuff. Ruffin is terrific
on "The Way You Do the Things You
Do," and Kendrick manages to find
some of the old magic on "My Girl."
During the four Temptations songs,
both Daryl and John sound very weak.
Daryl Hall has been called a great
soul singer, but he is laid bare by
singing behind two acknowledged
greats. He does a pretty good job, as
does John Oates, but the gap between
their back-ups, and the work of the
* former Temps is evident. It is for this
:reason that the last two songs on Side
One are so impressive.
Hall takes on, "When Something is
Wrong with My Baby," and his own,
"Everytime You Go Away"-both
good soul songs-and performs
remarkably well. The second song
puts Paul Young's rendition to shame.
Hall introduces it by saying that it
was covered by "some British
singer," and proceeds to reel off a
J eartfelt, gutsy reading of the song.
Side One is a pretty good soul e.p.,
worthy of the cover and the build-up
even with its shortcomings.
Side Two presents the unfortunate
spectacle of a Hall & Oates live per-
formance in all its overblown glory.
The songs are terrible, and the or-
chestration is irritating. The whole
thing is made doubly offensive by the
fact that the crowd is eating it up.
Hearing songs like "I Can't Go for
4rhat (No Can Do)" and "Adult
Education," immediately after
hearing "My Girl," is enough to com-
pletely destroy the notion of blue-eyed
soul. If Hall and Oates are at all
soulful, it is not something which they
can manifest at will, it is only pure
happenstance that they manifest
soulfulness at all. The four songs on
Side Two prove that the pair's success
at the end of Side One is little more
.rthan dumb luck.
dining room. Gurney's wacky and
witty style is totally unleashed in The
Dining Room. The room is always used
as a constant focal point of conflict
and action. If there's not a cocktail
party of an intermarital affair going
on then the room is bombarded by a
six-year-old's birthday party or
teenage girls exploring the liquor
"The dining room is an integral
part of our life. It's not like the kit-
chen table. In the dining room, many
important decisions are made," said
The Dining Room takes an affec-
tionate look at a vanishing society and
encompasses many of the crises that
the audience has experienced. It's
humor that comforts."
Gurney expresses a theme of disin-
tegrating WASP culture in virtually
all the scenes. From the girl who wan-
ANN ARBOR. MI
Friday, October 25
Member of Michigan delegation of
Witness For Peace.
"AN UPDATE ON NICARAGUA"
Lunch available for $1.
ts to quit dancing school, to the young
boy who has a crush on his maid, to
the architect determined to convert
the dining room into an office. Gur-
ney clearly sets up his theme.
As the play unfolds we are privy to
what might be a typical day for a
dining room, we see breakfast, lunch,
dinner, but the individual scenes are
from various historical periods. As a
result the play leaps from, for exam-
ple, the Depression to the present,
with the dining room being the only
real link between the scenes.
Another unusual feature of the play
is that six actors play 57 roles. Not
only do the actors take on multiple
roles of nine or ten characters apiece,
but the roles are extremely varied.
One actor who plays a middle-aged
father in one scene plays a six-year-
old in another and a grandfather in
The Dining Room is presented by
the Ensemble Theatre Company. The
company consists of six third-year
graduate theatre students; Jeff
Schneiter, Richard Schmit, Margaret
Masserman, Maggie Lally, Stephen
Smith, and Marcy McMuigan.
"The play is a perfect piece for an
ensemble of six, and being a
challenging play, proves to be a good
exercise for the students," said
Oberlin. "The Dining Room is an ex-
cellent play to put on because it's a
timely play based on life experience."
"Mr. Gurney is one of the best com-
temporary playwrights today," said
Oberlin. "He is skillful at looking at
things abstractly and objectively. He
has a fine sense of dramaturgy. Gur-
ney objectively captures real people,
not just people like himself. Gurney is
definitely his own person."
Oberlin, in addition to directing, is
also a producer, educator, and as an
actor will be seen in the Project
TheatreCompany's production of An-
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