SU Drama’s ‘The Art of Dining’ feeds audience’s appetite for comedy
SU Drama’s ‘The Art of Dining’ feeds audience’s appetite for comedyJanuary 30, 2007Kyle Basskebass@syr.edu
The Syracuse University Drama Department kicks off the second half of its 2006-07 season with a hearty serving of “The Art of Dining” by playwright Tina Howe. A comedy involving food, relationships and several groups of eccentric (and very hungry) diners, the production is directed by SU Drama faculty member Craig MacDonald. “The Art of Dining” runs Feb. 16-25 in the Storch Theatre, located at the SU Drama/Syracuse Stage complex, 820 E. Genesee St.
Set at posh new gourmet restaurant The Golden Carousel on a cold and blustery New Jersey evening, “The Art of Dining” uses food as a running metaphor for the pressures, hopes, fears and stresses that exist in American society. Written and first performed in 1979, the play explores the idea that dining can be a time to bring friends and family together and also an opportunity for more serious issues to be digested. Howe’s uproarious, fast-paced comedy explores such dark issues as body image and eating, along with personality and mental disorders.
The curtain rises on The Golden Carousel’s co-owners: Ellen (portrayed by junior Megan Sass) and Cal (senior Adam J. Wahlberg). Comedy abounds as Ellen, a gourmet chef concerned with serving up the most haute cuisine, and Cal, a former lawyer-turned-headwaiter to support the restaurant, try to make ends meet while building customer satisfaction. Tensions arise as Cal — concerned with earning back their investment — continuously overbooks the eatery, while Ellen — striving for perfection — struggles to keep up with orders.
As the night progresses, “The Art of Dining” serves a bizarre combination of characters, played by a cast of seven talented SU students. Juniors Crystal Bailey and Ian Michael Austin appear as Hannah and Paul Galt, a classy, well-dressed couple whose marriage is tested over a nearly perfect dinner. Elizabeth Barrow Colt (played by senior Max Anderson), a neurotic, extremely introverted writer who is afraid of food, meets up with publisher David Osslow (junior Ryan Canuelle), who is taken aback by her disturbing childhood memories. Three friends — Herrick Simmons (junior Brittany Anne Oman), Nessa Vox (sophomore Nadine Malouf) and Tony Stassio (junior Lulu Fogarty) — come together to celebrate Tony’s birthday, but their dinner becomes tainted by her severe lack of appetite, a trait that suggests she is on the verge of an eating disorder.
Director MacDonald acknowledges that the quick-witted, intense dialogue presented in the script posed a bit of a challenge for the student actors. “The challenge is one of balance and chaos,” he says. “These people `multi-task’ to an absurd degree: juggling sharp knives, hot plates, bowls of liquid and the whims of the consuming public, all while running in circles.”
Scenic design for “The Art of Dining” is by senior T.V. Alexander, with assistance from sophomore Noah Hornstein. Junior Julia Bowers is costume designer for the production, while SU alumna Erin M. Ballantine ’01 is responsible for sound design. Lighting designer, junior Eli Polofsky, is assisted by sophomore Rachel Slotnick. Stage manager senior Rebecca Roffman is assisted by junior Stephanie Barr and sophomore Dimitre Guenov. Production assistants for “The Art of Dining” include first-year students Laura Borgwardt, Arielle Lever and Jana Stambaugh.
MacDonald says viewers can expect to walk away from the production with “laughs — lots of laughs — and an appetite.”
Tickets for the SU Drama production of “The Art of Dining” are $16 for adults and $14 for students and seniors. Feb. 21 is “Pay What You Can Night” and is valid for SU I.D. holders. For tickets and more information, contact the SU Drama Box Office at (315) 443-3275 or visit http://vpa.syr.edu/drama.