Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Dinner at Seven-Thirty

Lucy Rupert, Thomas Morgan Jones (photo by Dahlia Katz)

At the Appointed Time, Come to Dine
Ethereal, poetic, gracefully beautiful
by Jason Booker

Dinner at Seven Thirty washes over an audience, as oceanic tides pass over a beach. The text is heard, for all its poetry, causing moments of recognition or laughter, before passing by silently. The characters gently meld into one entity mourning the loss of a close friend – one drop in the tidal pool of humanity – remembered but not missed as their lives continue with the accumulation of goods, carrying on the status quo or simply staring back in stasis at yesteryear.

There is no discernible plot to Theatre Rusticle’s creation, loosely based on Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. However, the general premise appears to be a memory play, recalling the lives of six characters from childhood to their later years, as they gather for a dinner to honour their fallen friend. This lack of linear arc allows Dinner at Seven Thirty to delicately duplicate Woolf’s Modernist style, floating through the consciousness, staging how the human mind works, cresting from one image or memory to another without any discernible reason.

The show returns the company to its first full production with some new collaborators to re-envisioning how a challenging literary comes alive for a theatrical audience. Using evocative music to underscore Woolf’s post-WWI era, director Allyson McMackon boldly blends movement and text, allowing both to co-exist in the hands of these capable actors. Her dance never becomes unison and only rarely involves the whole cast, but each character has a unique manner of moving, encapsulated by names like The Man in the Suit or The Woman from the Country.

The performers are uniformly terrific from the flexible strength of William Yong as The Hero to the organized neuroses of Hume Baugh’s The Late Man. Thomas Morgan Jones stands out with his ludicrous appearance and Lucy Rupert puts on her best Theda Bara, campy, vampy and sexy. Viv Moore unabashedly explores all the ages of her character while Ron Kennell’s vulnerability anchors the show. Finally, The Woman With Stones in her Pocket (Andrya Duff) drops a simulacrum of the author into the action, a premise that does not develop its full promise, though nobly portrayed by Duff.

R. Kelly Clipperton’s elegant yellow, beige and white costumes lit by Michelle Ramsay’s sepia-toned lights, which gently flicker on the train ride to dinner, take the audience back in time, as if observing an antique photo-shoot from the 1920s. Complete with smoky atmosphere, these gorgeous designs (including set designer Lindsay Anne Black's bird-like mobile) could almost make a show out of themselves, except for needing people to show them off to their full effect..

Admittedly, some of the text meanders towards the end of the show but the overall feeling of the show is so captivatingly visual, existing specifically in that moment, that only a feeling is left after the show, a sensation and not a clear memory. The program left behind as an impression on the sand of people known and loved that have passed through, casting only their footprints and the occasional seashell in the wake.

Dinner at Seven Thirty continues until October 20 2013 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Run time approximately 85 minutes. 
Read also an interview with creator Allyson McMackon

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