Domesticity can make for a very dull subject.
In Donald Marguiles’ Pulitzer Prize winning play, in a Roundabout Theatre Company revival, at Laura Pels Theatre through April 13th,“Dinner With Friends,” it is laced with the spice of infidelity.
Beth (Heather Burns) spills her misery to her old friend Karen (Marin Hinkle) and her husband’s best friend Gabe (Jeremy Shamos) even before the dessert is served. Tom’s (Darren Pettie) absence from this regular gathering is actually due to his going to see his girlfriend, and not because he is off on another business trip.
When his travel plans are snowed out, Tom returns home to discover that Beth told Gabe and Karen that he wanted a divorce. Late as it is, Tom drives over to to set the record straight with Karen and Gabe, who feel betrayed by the dissolution of Beth and Tom’s marriage.
Gabe and Karen had fixed Beth and Tom up, spent vacations with them and their kids together over the years. While Beth was clearly blind-sided, they were the last to know. Beth muses, “He was moody. Yes. Distracted. I thought it was work. Or jet lag…” Tom tells Gabe he has never been happier than he has since his marriage ended. He doesn’t want therapy, or need advice.
“Dinner With Friends” tells a simple tale of four friends, two couples, each looking to keep passion alive or rekindle it, despite the grind of the day to day domesticity of their lives.
As Tom, Darren Pettie manifests an appropriately defensive menace. He is the the bullying poster boy for leaving your wife. When Tom tells Gabe about his new girlfriend, he sounds as if he is proselytizing: “She saved my life, Gabe. She really did; she breathed life back into me ” His enthusiasm for the new is like a slap at the friendship he and Gabe have shared.
Jeremy Shamos has the gift of likability that make his Gabe vulnerable and approachable. He is a content with the life he’s chosen: “We’ve all made sacrifices to our kids. It’s the price you pay for having a family,” he tells Tom.
Under Pam MacKinnon’s direction, the ensemble breathes fresh life into this ordinary story. Heather Burns plays Beth as both put-upon and manipulative. The subtlety in her characterization contrasts with Marrin Hinkle’s straightforward portrayal of the judgemental and down-to-earth Beth.
“Dinner With Friends” covers the twelve plus years of marriages and friendships with ease and panache. The attractive sets, designed by Allen Moyer, travel through the many locales “Dinner With Friends” inhabits, from Martha’s Vineyard to rooms in the protoganists’ homes.
If you have seen the 2001 Emmy-nominated film version or the original 1999 production, you will find this one charmingly done and nicely staged. (Need more opinion? Check out TB review on VP.com.)
To learn more about “Dinner With Friends,” please visit http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/