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Players Circle’s ‘Dining Room’ comic, touching homage to slice of vanishing Americana


Players Circle Theatre at the Shell Factory will present A.R. Gurney’s The Dining Room January 7 through February 2.

The play is set in the dining room of a well-to-do household – the place where the family assembles for breakfast, for dinner and for sundry special occasions. But this dining room is anything but typical. That’s because Gurney’s living room “exists in a void” compliments of a minimalist set; a cast called upon to portray multiple characters in the tradition of Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery and Let Nothing You Dismay; and a non-linear timeline where nothing matters that occurred before each of the play’s 18 distinct vignettes, or which follows. In other words, The Dining Room is vintage Gurney.

The action is comprised of a mosaic of scenes—some funny, others touching, many rueful. Taken together, they create an in-depth portrait of a vanishing species: the upper-middle-class white Anglo-Saxon Protestant or so-called WASP family. In this context, Gurney has the actors who are cast in this play change roles, personalities and ages with virtuoso skill as they rush to portray a wide variety of characters – from little boys to stern grandfathers, from giggling teenage girls to Irish housemaids.

Each vignette introduces a new set of people and events. A father lectures his son on grammar and politics. A boy returns from boarding school to discover his mother’s infidelity. A senile grandmother doesn’t recognize her own sons at Christmas dinner. A daughter, her marriage a shambles, pleads futilely to return home. A brother and sister divide a parent’s possessions. Girls search for liquor and pot. A nephew does research for his college paper.

Dovetailing swiftly and smoothly, sometimes beginning before the prior one ends, the varied scenes depicted in The Dining Room ultimately coalesce into a theatrical experience of exceptional range, compassion, humor and abundant humanity.

In sum, The Dining Room is a brilliantly-conceived and richly humorous tour-de-force from the author of Sylvia and Cocktail Hour that provides strong opportunities for the Players Circle directors and cast to explicate a variety of timely themes ranging from adultery, vanishing customs and the treatment of domestic help to homosexuality, Alzheimer’s, sex, drugs, women’s education and family values.

The Players Circle Theatre performs at the Shell Factory, which is located at 16554 N. Cleveland Ave. in North Fort Myers, just five miles and a 10-minute drive north of downtown Fort Myers. For more information, please visit

December 18, 2019.

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