The Dining Room In the stuffy but elegant confines of an East Coast WASP-ish household, 60 characters come and go over six decades of meals, arguments and reconciliations conducted around one large dining table. Playwright A.R. "Pete" Gurney, now a master at chronicling the lives of upper-crusters who turn out to be crumbs, had his first hit with this two-act comedy in the early 1980s. It's a series of light vignettes--no plot to follow, no character names to memorize--that depict the evolution of the family dining experience. In the 1930s, the parents made children watch their manners and use the proper forks as their elders talked of war and food shortages. By the 1980s, the dining table has become a catch-all for schoolbooks and other detritus, barely used for meals or familial get-togethers. Contemporary Theatre's cast of six shows remarkable dexterity at switching characters and costumes in the blink of an eye. Tom Lenaghen and Lulu Ward are standouts, playing squealing kids one minute and cranky oldsters the next. Wendy Welch, Ben Bryant, James Kille and Elise Reynard do yeomen's work as dozens of other occupants within the same three walls. Director Susan Sargeant keeps it all moving at a brisk, fast-food pace. With lots of laughs and some delicious performances, this is theater lite at its best. Continues through July 17 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St. 214-828-0094. Reviewed July 1. (Elaine Liner)
Wait Until Dark Frederick Knott knew scary. Before he wrote this thriller about a blind girl battling three nasty drug dealers in her own New York apartment, he penned Dial "M" for Murder. Knott was a master of the mystery with a twist, of the finale that turns the tables on the would-be killer. In Dark, Suzy (Elizabeth VanWinkle) uses her blindness as an advantage, picking up clues to the identities of the con men out to trick her into turning over a doll full of heroin (she doesn't know what's in the doll, and it's not clear why she wants to keep it, but it's best not to worry about such details). Ringleader of the bad guys is the sly Harry Roat Jr. (handsome, hairless Halim Jabbour). Serving as a deus ex machina is Gloria (Meredith Lindsey), an awkward 14-year-old neighbor of Suzy's who shows up just in the nick of time. All in all, this production has the potential to be an entertaining evening of thrills and chills. But opening night had problems: balky doorknobs, bad lighting cues, dropped lines and a leading lady who kept forgetting not to look at everything in her way (including props and actors). Over the course of the six-week run, it's bound to get better. Through July 24 at Richardson Theatre Center, 718 Canyon Creek Square (near Custer and Renner roads), 972-699-1130. Reviewed June 24. (E.L.)
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