Through October 2|
DINNER WITH FRIENDS Road Less Traveled Productions/RLTP Theater
By Augustine Warner
Dinner with friends, ah!
Often pleasant but also prone to problems and difficulties and poorly said comments.
For Gabe (Dave Hayes), Karen (Kelly Meg Brennan) and Beth (Lisa Vitrano), dinner isn’t going particularly well in their affluent Connecticut home until the bomb drops when Beth explains husband Tom (Philip Farugia) isn’t there because they are breaking up, mostly over his new girlfriend.
Actually, that’s two bombshells, difficult for Karen and Gabe because they fixed the two up years before in their Martha’s Vineyard place and their kids hang out together.
Karen can’t handle this because she’s such a controlling personality and she’s supposed to know when there are problems.
Gabe is more than a little upset because he met Tom in the first hour of the first day of freshman orientation and they have been friends since.
Donald Margulies won a Pulitzer for “Dinner With Friends” and as the Road Less Traveled production rolls along, you understand why.
The play is filled with moments which drive you crazy trying to figure out what’s going on, only to find out later in the performance what’s behind what’s going on.
It’s both frustrating and satisfying by the time the curtain drops.
What Margulies has done here is remove all of the usual trappings of a marriage going bad.
There aren’t sick kids or a dying spouse, financial problems, loss of a job or a spouse anxious to find himself or herself or going through a midlife crisis.
He’s pared it down to the essentials, two couples, four people, with kids who are only voices off-stage.
Karen controls but Gabe understands that and realizes they are pretty lucky and certainly financially comfortable, with the place on the Vineyard and what’s clearly an expensively decorated home.
We never quite figure out what Gabe does, but his costume when meeting Tom late in the show in Grand Central suggests it’s something which doesn’t need a Brooks Brothers suit while Tom’s lawyer job does.
Karen and Beth met when on the lowest levels of a giant Manhattan publishing house and Karen moved on to another.
When Beth and Tom are introduced, we know only she considers herself an artist and she and Tom have fixed up an art room in their home for artwork he dislikes.
She’s apparently no longer working.
Tom claims he never really wanted to be a high-paid lawyer but his lawyer father apparently pushed it and he succumbed.
The girlfriend may be the first rebellion in his life, as he moves from residential Connecticut into POSSLQ Manhattan and lives the great life.
Friendships are sundered, as Tom and Beth fight over which friends will remain and which will pick sides.
Tom and Gabe have their talk about what’s going on, as do Karen and Beth.
Nothing is resolved, although Gabe and Karen look at the situation and clearly resolve to hold on to each other in their own relationship.
Director Katie Mallinson does a nice job working with Dyan Burlingame’s set and its frequent shifts along the path of the story.
Mallinson has a nice cast to work with, especially Hayes and Brennan.
Playwright Margulies seems to like these two characters and really doesn’t seem to like Tom and Beth much.
In the audience chairs, you have to sit through some truly uncomfortable events and discover the bombs which drop to explain events.
That’s why “Dinner With Friends” is really worth seeing.
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