Theater Review - Dinner With Friends (NY)

In the year 2000, “Dinner with Friends,” a play by Donald Margulies, won the Pulitzer Prize and every other possible award an off-Broadway production can collect. With its gentle but piercing insights on marriage, it has been winning audiences over ever since. Now, a Roundabout revival of this well-made play at the Laura Pels Theatre of the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre on West 46th Street should have audiences fighting for tickets. Well-dressed by Ilona Somogyi, Jeremy Shamos as Gabe, Marin Hinkle as Karen, Darren Pettie as Tom and Heather Burns as Beth under Pam McKinnon's incisive direction demonstrate ensemble acting at its best.  From the first act, an exploration of Gabe and Karen, gourmands at work, to the last scene, when this married couple examines their lives, “Dinner with Friends” flows smoothly, a romantic valentine full of wit and wisdom. 

 

Set in Connecticut, the playwright's home state, in the opening humorous scene in Gabe and Karen's kitchen (Set- Allen Moyer, Lighting- Jane Cox), we are introduced to this “happily wed couple” with young children—whom we hear, never see (Alex Dreier, Aimee Laurence). Passionate “foodies,” they are excitedly describing their recent trip to Italy to Beth, their very best friend. Her husband, Tom, is on a business trip to D.C. While Beth is eating and savoring the food they have lovingly cooked, she bursts into hysterics confessing that Tom has left her and her kids for someone else.  Of course, Gabe and Karen are shocked by this news. When Beth tells them that Tom hates her and wants nothing more to do with her, they are appalled; they can't understand this behavior.  Karen is particularly furious with Tom; Gabe is a little less upset. 

 

Margulies underscores the serious effects divorce has not only for the couple involved, but all other relationships. Many of us have had dear friends, who share our lives and suddenly divorce. In this case it is a condemnation of them, as well and all the good times they have shared. Gabe and Karen fixed Tom and Beth up; we see that happening in the second act, set in Martha's Vineyard, which cleverly goes back in time.  It is 12 and a half years earlier, when Tom and Beth are brought together at Gabe and Karen's house. She is an artist; he has little knowledge but tries to be supportive. 

 

In the end, Gabe tries to convince Tom to reconsider, but his longtime friend is caught up in his new selfish way of life.  Karen does the same to Beth, yet finds out that this long suffering wife has already found another man to spend her life with. There are some surprises in “Dinner with Friends” that we will leave for you to discover on the stage of the Laura Pels Theatre. 

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