“The Art of Dining,” the latest spring production for the Fairfield Theater Program, premiered on April 13 in the PepsiCo Theater. The production had a fantastic mixture of comedy and heartfelt relational drama, making the show captivating for audiences.
Before the show began, the cast and crew were found preparing for the production backstage. The actors, as they were getting into costume and getting their makeup done in chairs, were calm and ready to appear on stage. Despite the usual craziness that accompanies such preparation, there was a lighthearted atmosphere among the entire crew. As music played in the background, the cast and crew joked around with each other during the waiting time.
Cast members Nick Solimini ’16 and Jessie Lizotte ’18 spoke about their respective roles before the show began. The two played Paul and Hannah Galt, an eccentric couple that not so subtly displayed their libidinal sensibilities while they dined at the show’s restaurant.
“I love my role because it’s hilarious … it’s completely different than anything I’ve done before,” said Solimini.
“We like to think we have it together, but as the play progresses it becomes really apparent that we don’t,” said Lizotte.
When asked about their preparation for their roles, they offered some insight into the overall production.
“Our director did a lot of work with us before we even got started. A lot of the show was challenging and we couldn’t rehearse until we really knew all of our lines,” continued Solimini.
According to Lizotte, the entire cast did a lot of character analysis at the beginning in order to get a better understanding of their roles and the different elements of the play.
As the final call was made for roles, the cast and crew dispersed to their respective areas, and the audience began to take their seats so that “The Art of Dining” could begin.
Directed by Jan Mason, the story followed the relationship between Ellen (Aubrey Sierer ‘16), a cooking prodigy, and Cal (Patrick Donegan ‘18), her supportive husband, as they try to run a successful restaurant, which is on the verge of becoming a gustatory phenomenon.
Their restaurant, named The Golden Carousel, was run out of their living room and set the scene for each act. The story also observed the patrons of The Golden Carousel on a stormy winter night, as the audience gets a brief, yet revealing look into the lives of its eccentric customers.
The set itself is simplistic, yet elegant with a carousel outline that wrapped around the lights and hung just over three dinner tables in the middle of the stage. In the back of the set was a kitchen and shelves stocked with a variety of culinary items. The set did a great job of conveying a homegrown feeling to The Golden Carousel and allowed for the actors to bring it to life.
The actors were all fantastic in the production, as they each infused their characters with the proper amount of idiosyncrasies and eccentric behavior demanded by the comedic elements of the play. Even when the story descended into sudden dramatic elements, the actors were able to smoothly transition into the emotional beats.
“The Art of Dining” was a play built off of little details, with an emphasis on the concept of foreground mixed with background storytelling. Foreground storytelling has the main narrative take center stage in front of the audience, while there are a multitude of details in the background that influence the events of the overall story.
The show utilized the concept of foreground storytelling in an intriguing way. The lighting changed frequently throughout, indicating to the audience where the primary action was occurring with a well placed spotlight. However, when the focal point of the action switched to another character, the background actors shifted their movements into slow motion. The chosen effect made the world appear to slow down in the background so that the audience could pay full attention to the current sequence.
Viewers that happened to watch the actors’ slow motion gestures likely noticed the excellent level of detail that was put into the show. Whenever the action shifted, the actors did a great job carrying on their performances in slow motion. A particularly hilarious use of slow motion happened during the second act, which saw three characters compete for each other’s dish in a well choreographed, matrix inspired food fight, which garnered laughs and applause from the audience.
One of the themes that permeated the production was the role that food plays in people’s lives. Throughout the story, the characters each interact with their food in different ways, whether it be through the simple pleasure of tasting delicious meals or finding comfort through the fulfilling nature of eating. Food was shown to bring people together and by the end of the production, all of the hungry, disparate characters united to enjoy dessert together as the lights faded.
“The Art of Dining,” with its delicious blend of comedy and drama, was a fantastic production that is sure to please audiences.