Written by Donald Marguiles, Directed by Valerie Pallai
In this contemporary age when couples befriend other couples to find family companions with common ground, Dinner with Friends seeks to explore what happens when one of these romantic pairs breaks down, and the waves that can make across households. Gabe and Karen, collaborators in the industry of food literature and a husband-and-wife duo that boast a relationship to aspire to, maintain a constant closeness with another couple in their life, Tom and Beth. Tom, who has known Gabe since college, and Beth, a friend of Karen’s, were set up years ago by Gabe and Karen on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard that they all took together. When, in the first scene, Beth informs Gabe and Karen over dinner that Tom is leaving her, a chain of events is set off that may impact more than one kind of love. Though the events of this play center first around a romantic breakup, they are hardly limited to that specific kind of human bond. Friendships, too, are challenged and made raw as this drama moves through a subtle examination of why we keep people constant in our lives, and what it means when both people need to move on. Through recollections, arguments, impassioned grasps for personal freedom, and revelation of past hurt, each of these four adults rediscovers the meaning behind their connection to one another. When the dust has settled and the healing on all sides is closer to completion, more than one relationship may have found its end. Cross-talk and subtext are noticeable tools of this play, and both honor the realism with which these people come together and come apart. The motif of bonding over a meal not only highlights Karen and Gabe’s love for the art of food, but also the vulnerability often found in the breaking of bread as a means of relating to other humans on a very basic level. This thematic element is ever-present in the aptly-titled Dinner with Friends, an eventful but quiet and moving meditation on challenge and communication in relationships of every kind.