by Lynn on October 17, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

Dinner at Seven-Thirty

 At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto. Inspired by The Waves by Virginia Woolf. Directed by Allyson McMackon. Set by Lindsay Anne Black. Costumes by R. Kelly Clipperton. Lighting by Michelle Ramsay. Starring: Andrya Duff, Thomas Morgan Jones, Ron Kennell, Viv Moore, Lucy Rupert and William Yong.

Produced by Theatre Rusticle and plays at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until Oct. 20.

Allyson McMackon, Artistic Director and founder of Theatre Rusticle since 1998, loves The Waves by Virginia Woolf and based her very early production of Dinner at Seven-Thirty on it.

 She has revived the production for more exploration where it plays at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre for a short run to October 20.

It’s not to be confused with Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8:30, or Kaufman and Ferber’s Dinner at Eight.

From the press release: “Dinner at Seven-Thirty is inspired by Virginia Woolf’s ground breaking 1931 novel, The Waves. Woolf’s novel is a series of inner monologues, told by a group of friends from their school days to their late adult life. In a nutshell, they play in a garden, group up and go to separate schools, universities, fall in love with a seventh friend, survive his death, many travel, work, have children and approach the end of their days.”

The Waves is a dense, complex, poetic rendering of what these friends have gone through over the years. The above snippet of the press release explains the clearest what that maddeningly obtuse book is saying.

The press release goes on: “Dinner at Seven-Thirty is a physical memory play combining text, movement and thrilling visual imagery. Set at a reunion dinner, six friends revisit what binds them and ask the potent question, “What have we made of life? What matters? A bitter sweet last supper between six disparate souls. Dinner at Seven-Thirty binds these characters by history and a shared heartbeat.”

While director Allyson McMackon says in her director’s note that Dinner at Seven-Thirty is a ‘distillation’ of Virginia Woolf’s novel, The Waves, all concerned seems coy about how that distillation came about. Was it a group effort of the director and cast? I’d like to know.

The inner and public monologues are not regular language. They are frequently esoteric musings, vautlingly poetic, and intellectually complex, the meaning of which is occasionally hard-going. The physicality, grace and beauty of the production lend a humanity to the piece that I don’t find in the written word.

Lindsay Anne Black’s set of a brick walled enclosure with smooth boulders that are used for the cast to sit upon in various configurations, is simplicity itself. R. Kelly Clipperton’s wonderful costumes are in soft shades of oranges, yellows, beige, giving a suggestion of sepia to it, and hence playing on the fuzzy world of memory. The men are in suits, the woman in flowing dresses. Elegance is everywhere.

It is illuminated with breathtaking invention and sensitivity by Michelle Ramsay, a designer who paints with light; sometimes dappled; sometimes fuzzy, always effective.

While I find the dialogue heavy-going, the cast’s rendering of the lines convey the inner life of the characters. They all remember celebrating The Hero as he went off to war, and the various people who loved him, and how they were bereft when he didn’t come home. These are people perhaps pining for that lost hero years later. And through the swirling movement of the cast one gets a sense of their urgency to find what they are missing.

Theatre Rusticle is one of our more daring theatre companies that uses movement, imagery and dialogue to create vivid theatre. I always find them compelling to watch, even when the source material isn’t.

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