Tune in to coverage of the ongoing Occupy protests, and it won't take long to hear someone lament the diminishment of the American middle class. But while economic factors tend to take the blame for our current cultural malaise, playwright A.R. Gurney explored similarly shifting social mores when he wrote The Dining Room in 1981. A bittersweet comedy of manners, the play uses its title location as a window into a middle-class psyche that has historically struggled to accommodate any challenges to its reassuringly rote traditions. In a clever twist to his narrative, Gurney revolves the play around one dining room, an unchanging space through which successive generations pass. With a timeframe spanning decades, the work's 18 distinctive scenes feature a new era and a new set of characters, each situation reflective of the corresponding period's prevailing mindset. The work's vast social sweep represents an ambitious undertaking for any company, but Theatre in the Round Players have long exhibited an eagerness to seek (and nearly always find) an empathetic center in even the most sprawling works. Overseen by director Lynn Musgrave, The Dining Room's vast array of roles will be enacted by six performers, allowing a versatile performance showcase to demonstrate that even in times of radical change, our underlying humanity still remains the same.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Nov. 18. Continues through Dec. 18, 2011