You have a wonderful marriage. Two kids after twelve years. Successful. You finish each other’s sentences. Travel together. Work together. Cook together. And so you invite your best friends to dinner. Friends that you set up together at your home in the Vineyard called Martha’s about twelve and a half years ago.
Only one shows up as her husband needs to travel. He’s a lawyer. She’s an artist. But she seems distracted. She cries. She spills the beans. He’s leaving her. Wants a divorce. You are both upset and thus begins your self-examination of your own marriage.
Are you really happy as you appear to be to your friends? Is it better to break up or stay together? What happened to having sex? These are some of the questions examined in DINNER WITH FRIENDS, a tame and tired revival of Donald Margulies’ Pulitzer Prize winning drama – 2000.
In a series of scenes from two marriages, we witness what makes these four tick. Unlike “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” brilliantly directed by Pam MacKinnon who has been hired to breathe fresh life into this play – histrionics don’t get out of hand and Ms. MacKinnon directs in a straightforward manner, delving deep into the subtext and psyches of the characters.
But DINNER WITH FRIENDS comes across as a sit-com and adds nothing new to this genre. “Friends” and “Two and a Half Men” have said and done it all.
Which brings me to one of my pet peeves. Projection. Marin Hinkle (Karen – the artist wife of Gabe – Jeremy Shamos) has done tons of TV. One show is Two and a Half Men and we can turn up the volume if need be. Not so here. She is so low key that she seems to be whispering. I heard the other three actors just fine so is isn’t my hearing that is at fault. I sincerely wish that the powers that be listen and make sure the audience gets what it is paying for.
Jeremy Shamos – who seems to have a cloud of sadness over his head – speaks volumes silently as he listens to Tom’s side of the story played with great flair by Darren Pettie explaining why he wants out of his marriage and run off with his new lover – a travel agent that his wife Beth (Heather Burns) insists of calling “a stewardess”. They also have two children that don’t seem to matter.
Allen Moyer has designed a blank neutral grey box set. Other set pieces slide in and out for the various locations and flashback in time that covers the twelve and a half years of their friendship.
Tom and Beth decide to move on and look terrific after their split and hooking up with new lovers. Gabe and Karen remain together but apart as we see them in a final tableau in bed not cuddling but reading books – but with a cute button to end the play.
I had seen the original at The Variety Arts Theater and thought much the same as I think now about the play wondering how it won a Pulitzer…
At The Laura Pels. www.roundabouttheatre.org
Photos: Jeremy Daniel
NOTE: When a play starts at 7:30 the audience should be already seated and not meandering in at 7:40 delaying the production. PLEASE BE ON TIME. Thank you.
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