“Dividing the Estate” at The Old Globe

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Photo courtesy of www.oldglobe.org

The Gordon family tries its best to enjoy a hilariously tense dinner.

By Angela Zhang, Arts Editor / Managing Editor

Horton Foote’s “Dividing the Estate” was an all-too-honest portrayal of the moral conflicts and changing ways of an American family. Matriarch grandma Stella invites her extended family over to her large Texan estate for a dinner, but the seemingly run-of-the-mill event is torn apart by the childish squabble over the matter of dividing Stella’s estate and guaranteeing financial independence for her three children.

Though the play was set and premiered in the 1980s, several sharp social statements still hold true today. Take, for instance, Stella’s two granddaughters who cry over not having expensive country club weddings, and retreat from the dinner table to talk to their boyfriends on the phone. Or perhaps Stella’s businessman son-in-law, who panics for just about the entire play worrying about what money they might’ve earned if they had divided sooner.

The humor came one punch line after another, from old genteel grandma sass to obliviously liberal outbursts from a schoolteacher in a conservative mansion. Yet at the end of the play, I walked out feeling conflicted about what had happened. I trust that the actors at the Old Globe held true to what Foote might’ve imagined while writing the script; each character presented a social conceit, whether it was Stella and her old-time charm, or her bourgeoisie, nouveau riche daughter struggling to mold herself into a glamourized society. Perhaps above anything else, I took away a sense of vulnerability, a critiquing but forgiving eye on the human race and what it’s become—selfish, and maybe even a little jaded, but still able to find a bittersweet satisfaction in the small comforts of family.

“Dividing the Estate” runs at The Old Globe theater in Balboa until Feb. 12.