FRONT ROW CENTER
By Cindy Paul
A.R. Gurney, Jr.’s
“THE DINING ROOM”
Directed by Helen Desjardins

     I had my doubts about “The Dining Room.” The script verges on the avant garde, a difficult style and somewhat passé, not to mention a bit “outside” for our Lakeside audiences.
     But the night I attended, the folks thoroughly enjoyed the play, and so did I.
     This play is artfully crafted and held our attention throughout. The impact of the premise alone gave the script enough momentum to stay alive for two hours, something I don’t recall observing before.
     The idea is to show a “slice of life” representation of dozens of scenes revolving around the same dining room set. It’s a depiction of different characters in different time frames overlapping and interwoven like a four-dimensional crossword puzzle. Three men and three women portray about 50 characters. It’s an actor’s play and you’d better have some solid acting to pull the whole thing off.
     They did. The cast was very strong and worked well in their individual and team efforts to do justice to the play.
     My take is that the roles are pretty evenly divided, so I mention the players now in order of appearance:
     We’ll not soon forget Liz White, shiny as usual (especially as a youth), in the scene shared with Jim Lloyd under the dining room table. Ken Varcoe, a fine and sensitive actor, appeared to have enjoyed this challenge even as he rose to meet it handily. Jo Gamma, back to the LLT boards after a long hiatus, is a more than welcome talent, and we expect to see much more of her in the future. Jeritza McCarter handed in her usual top-level performance. Ray Himmelman, another dependable and always interesting local actor, rounded out this excellent team.
     If you think that because the set consisted of only a table and some chairs, there wasn’t much to do in the way of blocking and technical work for this show, you’d be wrong. It was probably not as demanding as most plays, but there was quite a lot of good work done in that regard. One example is that, where director Desjardins could have manufactured a lot of movement for movement’s sake, she usually refrained and trusted the playwright. Moments of valid silence were also left in... good call!
     Assisting the director was Margot Holaday with Joy Reeder as stage manager. Set coordinator was Pat Varcoe, lights were designed by Sue Breitfeller and operated by Roberta Ann Hilleman, and sound by Mike Harris. On wardrobe was Margot Holaday, with makeup by Dagmar Strole and Margaret Sloat and props by Clarence Sevy, Carol Waters and Philip Caracena.
     This was a risky choice of plays, but it turned out very well. I must say at this point that the quality of work put out by the LLT this year has soared. Bravo!
— One person’s opinion

“COMEDY CLASSICS”
Review by Alejandro Grattan

     A plywood stage, a blue backdrop with two cardboard Thespian masks (both comic), two chairs and a crate adorning the so-called stage.  You now have the setting for “Comedy Classics.”  Pathetic.  Then the house lights went out, the spot came up, and we were transported to Second City in Chicago.
     The comedy routines ran the gamut:  Bob Newhart, Rowan Atkinson, Roseanne Barr, Bob & Ray, comic songs such as “I’m My Own Grampaw,” my personal favorite, “The Bickersons,” cynic George Carlin, and then the piece de resistance, “Who’s on First,” by Abbott & Costello.
     Cindy Paul and Lonny Riddle were, as expected, terrific.  But the surprise of the evening was Flip Nicholson... where has he been hiding?  What a talent, with stage presence galore. Howard Dreicer made a personable emcee and lovely Marcia Miller kept it all together with jokes and a trivia contest. Bob Parker ran the sound cues and Lynn Keturakis and Mike McKenzie were on lights.
     They will be doing another performance in March.  If for no other reason than to catch “Who’s on First,” don’t miss “Comedy Classics” the next time!