For the purposes of this prompt I am going to select the eigth scene in act one. The basic premise of the action is a kid’s birthday party and it features a mother interacting with a father (and also various kids) who she is having an extramartial affair with (the dad, not the kids). The specific section of the play offers a nice mixture of humor and emotional complexity and it comes out in the dialogue.

The real big thing that stands out to me is Tempo and Beats. While I haven’t seen the play, I would assume there would be a difference in the way Peggy talks to the children versus when she talks to Ted. I think that’s just natural. When talking to the kids there might be more frantic anxiety from the sugar induced high the kids likely have from the birthday party. When she speaks with Ted there probably still is a lot of tension, but I think it manifests itself in a different form – it’s probably a bit more subdued. I also think the beats are fairly prominent: Birthday party, small talk about each others spouse, addressing kids, talk about their relationship etc. I think it establishes a nice pace to the dialogue in action.

The exposition is handled nicely as both Peggy and Ted reference their spouses being away or unhappy as a means of shedding light on their affair rather than just saying “so our affair was nice, huh?” In regards to sound, something stood out to me with Peggy. She has a monologue where she addressing the kids as they are sitting down at the table that seems to shed little insights to her character. The words she is saying crave order but the dialogue itself seems a bit disjointed (almost like her life). There are so many pauses and then bursts of energy that it could mirror her affair with Ted.

The scene holds up well with the others as it follows the theme of the same setting to illustrate simple facts about life. I found the entire play hard to read (as illustrated by the fact I am turning this in later than i usually do). I think I see why this play was picked for the week about theme and characterization (or I will completely miss it all together): I think this play is about something – an idea – more than it is about someone. The thing that makes it unique is that it uses a variety of different and differing someones to illustrate the something. When people think about a character study they think about a play in which a character goes from point A to point B and experiences a range of emotions in between – something that changes them. This play doesn’t do that. This play features a setting and almost uses it as a monument to an idea. What makes the idea fluid and grand is that each character modifies the idea to fit their circumstance. For instance there is the father who has his kid relax at the table in the opening scene and it portrays the table as a beacon of family unity, and then there is a couple of scenes after that in which a wife sprawls out her documents on the table and uses it as a work station (to the disdain of her husband) and that illustrates more of a conflict of ideas about the table (things we hold on to versus thing we use to build ourselves up). Each scene has its own theme and those work as parts of the bigger picture.

This scene was more about a memory being confronted with the future. Both Peggy and Ted have impending struggles to deal with in their respective marriages. The interesting part of that is they are at a birthday party for little kids that should be a memorable ocassion – something they will remember for a large portion of their lives. The whole scene is an interesting mash up of past and future in the present that works in the overall theme of the play.

I’m not going to post all of the videos for the play. I don’t want to have to spend anymore time with it then i already have.

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4 Comment on “A look at theme in “The Dining Room” by A.R. Gurney #SNHU

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