When last we looked in on the Monmouth Players, that longest-running of all area community stage troupes was offering up a holiday-season production of A Long Christmas Dinner, a Thornton Wilder playlet in which a single dining room serves as the setting for a century’s worth of action, with a small cast playing multiple generations of characters in the life of an American home.
When the players resume their Season of Classics this weekend (their 63rd overall, if you can wrap your head around that), it will find them still lurking about the dining room — or more precisely, The Dining Room, an ensemble “comedy of manners” that packs its own playfully experimental edge.
Written by A.R. Gurney — best known for the economical duet Love Letters, and the doggie-style romance Sylvia — the 1981 play takes place inside the homes of various middle class families, over the course of several decades, with a single specific 19th-century dining room set as the one constant factor linking the often overlapping vignettes (well, that, plus the gently gradual collapse of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture in America).
It’s a fascinating piece of work (though hardly as tough to follow as you might think); one that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and which employed such actors as John Shea (Lois & Clark, Gossip Girl) and William H. Macy during its original run.
A cast of six — including David Beil, Kelly Quick Cibrian, Neil Zohan Goldstein, CJ Nolan, Nancy Viola, and players’ artistic director Lori Renick — do duty as more than 50 different characters here under the direction of Melanie Taylor. All performances are in the “Dean K. Anderson Theatre” auditorium of the Navesink Arts Center, the decommissioned old village library building that’s been rescued and given new life under the savvy stewardship of the venerable stage troupe. And, should all that onstage dining-room banter whet one’s appetite, the players will be serving up their signature spread of homemade desserts in the historic building’s reading room reception area.
Showtimes for The Dining Room are at 8:15 p.m. February 4 and 8, plus 2 p.m. matinees on February 5, 11, 12 and 19). Required reservations ($20; $17 for seniors and students; $10 for veterans) can be made here or by calling (732) 291-2911.