Review: Dinner at Seven-Thirty (Theatre Rusticle)

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Theatre Rusticle’s Dinner at Seven-Thirty is a richly poetic story of personal torment playing at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times

There comes a point in each of our lives when we reflect back on our individual histories and ask ourselves, “What have you become?” Theatre Rusticle’s current production, Dinner at Seven-Thirty, is inspired by Virginia Woolf’s iconic 1931 piece, The Waves. In this novel, we are introduced to a group of six childhood friends who have all entered adulthood, and now reminisce about the various moments that have defined each of their lives thus far.

Filled with poignant social commentaries and heart-warming depictions of personal torment, Dinner at Seven-Thirty is a wonderfully poetic production which further expands on the cannon of Woolf’s masterpiece as, now older and wiser, the six friends share new experiences.

The writing was exceptionally strong and perfectly matched the tone set in Woolf’s original work. Each monologue was beautifully performed and thoroughly engaging – inviting audience members not only into the group’s inner circle, but into each character’s inner psyche as well. The allegories spoken were thoughtful and insightful – peppered nonchalantly throughout the entire performance. At no time during this play did it feel like any characters were simply preaching or talking for talking’s sake.

Indeed, complex subject matter like life, loss and infidelity were explained not bluntly but rather using subtle allusory language meshed with vivid dance and pantomime. There was one scene where the characters were engrossed in schoolyard activities that perfectly depicted the way we are all brought up to socialize and conform to expectations. It was a refreshing an innovative take on the matter, where each actor’s body language conveyed almost as much as their dialogue did.

The real strength of this piece was the brilliant acting from its veteran cast – there were no weak links, no disjointed performances. The synergy between all players was both natural and captivating.

sideHume Baugh gave a stellar performance as ‘The Late Man’. Charming and rather likeable, he delivered his lines with such conviction that one could not help be lulled into his character’s naiveté and child-like sense of wonder. For his part, Thomas Morgan Jones who played ‘The Man in the Suit’ also gave a rave performance. He convincingly portrayed his character’s idiosyncratic obsession with status and public perception. William Yong, playing ‘The Hero’, is a kinetic genius. The way he moved his body around the stage was absolutely enthralling – utterly reminiscent of the specter he was playing. In addition to being an expert at dance, he also has quite the set of lungs on him. Viv Moore was lovely as ‘The Woman from the Country’. I’ve never seen a grown woman throw a temper-tantrum as convincingly as she did. And Lucy Rupert, who played ‘The Woman from the City’, was vanity incarnate. Conveying insecurity on stage can be a momentous task, but she delivered a performance that felt real and sincere.

However, the standout stars of the night were Ron Kennell (who played ‘the man with the umbrella’) and Andrya Duff (‘the woman with stones in her pocket’). Kennell is a natural-born entertainer. Everything about his performance was always on-point. He soared during his highs, and in his lower moments, his acting drew you into the inescapable pits of despair that his character was experiencing. As for Duff, her largest asset was the ease with which she delivered her lines. Her dialogue transcended scripted words and she just seemed like she was having a real conversation with the audience. Simple as it may seem, it’s something that even some of the most veteran actors can struggle with. Duff connected with her audience and we were captivated.

Brilliantly performed and rife with thought-provoking metaphors, Dinner at Seven-Thirty is a memorable production you simply must see.

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