By Daniella Litvak
August 7, 2017
Dinner With Friends is Donald Margulies' play about two very different married couples – Karen/Gabe and Tom/Beth. These couples have been friends for a long time. They've vacationed together, raised kids together, and of course shared many dinners together. Karen and Gabe think all is well until one evening when Beth announces her and Tom's marriage is over. Now the four of them must face the consequences this bombshell leaves in its wake.
What makes Dinner With Friends appealing is its honesty. The way the characters react to this shift in the status quo all makes sense. Furthermore, the play does not shy away from acknowledging how complicated of a situation this has become for the four leads. I like how the show uses the characters' history with one another to tell its story rather than relying too much on symbolism to make its point. I also like how all four characters are allowed to play off one another as opposed to limiting the interactions between the couples, between the men, and between the women. One of the most poignant scenes of the night is when Tom begs Karen to still be friends.
While the play does not reach Oscar Wilde levels of wit, it is apt to describe the play as "a rueful comedy" that does have some good zingers scattered throughout. Despite some scenes running a bit longer than they should have, Dinner With Friends presents an intriguing character study.
A lot of what makes the show great comes from the actors: Michelle D. Pedersen (Karen), Peter Hilton (Gabe), Angel Correa (Tom), and Jordana Oberman (Beth). Each of them are able to convey so much just from their expressions and body language that is often unnecessary to vocalize what is going on during the scene.
This is not the first time these four actors have worked together. In 2014 they performed together in Costa Mesa Playhouse's production of God of Carnage. It was a good idea for Director Michael Serna to reunite the cast for Dinner With Friends and not just because of the similarities the show has to God of Carnage. Dinner With Friends relies on the cast having a lived-in dynamic with each other, which is easy for this cast to deliver. Things often get tense among the characters, but the actors definitely have good chemistry. This makes the verbal sparring all the more enjoyable.
Costumes and sets are good. There was one set in particular that surprised me – in a good way – with how detailed it was compared to the other sets. The other sets were nice – definitely had a simplistic elegance vibe to them – but the color scheme was a little too monotone. Likewise the costumes suited the show, but I wished the envelope had been pushed a little further in that category.
If you are in the mood for something with substance, take a trip down to the Costa Mesa Playhouse. Dinner With Friends will definitely give you some food for thought.