Jenny Wasson / The Bulletin

This week, the Artists Repertory Theatre kicks off its 2013-2014 season with a new artistic director at the head of the table.

For the first production of his tenure, Dámaso Rodriguez will direct Dan LeFranc’s “The Big Meal.” Currently in previews, the play officially opens Saturday at the Alder Stage in Portland and runs through Oct. 6.

Rodriguez was selected among hundreds of applicants to succeed Allen Nause, who announced his retirement in 2012 after 25 years in the position. Rodriguez is a co-founder of the Los Angeles-based Furious Theatre Co. and also served as associate artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse.

Set in a quintessential American restaurant, “The Big Meal” takes a look at five generations of a modern family and the major and minor life moments that happen around the dinner table, according to the news release. Eight actors portray 26 characters in 80 minutes.

“At first it feels like a cute romantic comedy,” said Rodriguez in a news release. “And then it transforms, becoming more abstract and expressionistic as it goes.”

He continues, “This play speaks to universal things that if told traditionally would be prosaic but in this condensed form really looks at the whole of life in a very interesting and all-encompassing way.”

A West Coast premiere, this production stars Nause, Vana O’Brien, Scott Lowell, Val Landrum, Britt Harris, Andy Lee-Hillstrom, Agatha Olson and Harper Lea.

Ticket prices range from $38 to $55, depending on day of performance, or $20 for those younger than 25 or students. Tickets for tonight’s preview are $25. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit www.artists or contact 503-241-1278,