The Dining Room (in Cantonese)

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 December, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 December, 2000, 12:00am

The Dining Room (in Cantonese)

Sai Wan Ho Civic Centre Theatre

A review of an American production of A R Gurney's (Love Letters, Sylvia) The Dining Room called it 'brilliant and funny', but sadly, neither quality was evident in the local version produced by the Hong Kong Movie and TV Theatrical Society.

It was a production let down by a plodding pace, dreary dialogue and affected acting.

The Dining Room is a mosaic of scenes revolving around the bittersweet memories of the almost dead art of grand dining.

The situations, localised for this production, are meant to meld together with actors in following scenes walking in as those in the former make their way out. But instead of seamless integration, it all ran together awkwardly.

This was where having recognisable film and television actors was a liability. With familiar faces playing multiple roles, it took some time to catch on to characters, especially as each was played at the same monotonous rhythm.

For a play with 18 scenes, it should have all moved along a lot faster; too much time was spent endlessly rearranging the chairs and cutlery.

One character inadvertently summed it all up perfectly: 'Dinner is such a tedious affair. By the time, the dishes are served up one by one, everything is cold by the time we can eat,' she says.

Among the most excruciating scenes were those involving 'children' - played by the same actors - adopting puerile, affected voices that rivalled some of the worst dubbing on television.

The translation of the script lost most of its intended farcical aspects. Uninspired lines include: 'I've never seen the bottom of a table before; so it's just wood after all.'

None of it does justice to the actors, some of whom - such as Shirley Suet Lei, Chu Hark and Lo Kwan-chor - are known for fine performances on television and in films. But there is little they can do when so much is working against them.

In the end, The Dining Room falls just short of a full meal. The funny scenes don't tickle sufficiently, the touching scenes don't tug the heart strings enough and the warm ones never quite hit the spot.

Today-Dec 11, 8pm; today and tomorrow, 3pm. $80-$150 Urbtix