Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Rhode Island College’s third show of the year is Donald Margulies’ 2000 Pulitzer winning play, “Dinner with Friends.” It opened Off Broadway in New York in 1999 playing 654 performances, having played in California and Paris before that. This comedy/drama, which is set in Connecticut, is an examination of the nature of friendship through the prism of two couples and the effect of one couple’s break up on themselves and their long time relationships.
When a self-absorbed gourmet and his wife, Gabe and Karen, witness the collapsing marriage of Tom and Beth, two friends whom they had originally introduced, they are forced to question their own marriage. The play exposes the same, universal insecurities that people face every time there are shattering changes in their lives. Margulies lets the audience see what happens from the four characters point of view so they can understand the whole picture. His characters are real and he shows them facing their fears of accountability and guilt, love and greed. The show becomes a spectacle of the everyday realities of life. That life should be savored and enjoyed Director Linda Sutherland makes the most of the comic and dramatic moments in the show with her four topnotch performers. Linda forges the quartet into a true ensemble of performers and she gives each of them their moment to shine in this show.
Linda obtains the best from her cast while they seemingly eat and drink through every scene in the show. The excellent unit set is by Katryne Hecht while the 1980’s and 90’s costumes are by Marcia Zammarelli. Gabe and Karen are excellently played by Joe DeLeo and Lauren Pothier. They capture the pretentious nature of this couple of gourmets who have a solid 12 year marriage with minor ups and downs along the way. Their gestures and movements as they constantly serve food and drink is terrific. They act like a long married couple in the show but in the flashback to 12 years ago, displays their playful and sexual natures to the audience as they set up their separate friends to meet. During the angst of their friends break-up, Gabe and Karen first line up along gender lines but later on when they learn information from Tom and Beth, they are no longer sure. In the last scene when they are alone in their bedroom, they are forced to wonder when the living of their hectic every day lives replaced the joy of loving each other.
Victor Neto and Mary Arnold play Tom and Beth beautifully as they capture the anger and resentment of their split up which leads to an hilarious sexual encounter. During the flashback, they capture the innocence of the past as we watch these diverse individuals become a couple, knowing what there future will be. Later on in the show Beth tells of meeting an old friend and is determined to marry him. She also reveals a secret past with him and lets her resentment toward Karen to surface. Tom is ecstatically happy with his new paramour and confides things to Gabe who is unable to accept them. All four performers capture the essence of their roles and draw you into what happens with ease. So for some marvelous acting in a thought provoking contemporary show, be sure to catch “Dinner With Friends” at Rhode Island College Theatre.
DINNER WITH FRIENDS (22 to 26 February)
Rhode Island College Theatre, Forman Theatre, 600 Mount Pleasant Ave., Providence, RI
1(401)456-8144 or www.ric.edu