Dinner with Friends

The Pulitzer prize winning play by David Margulies, Dinner with Friends spotlights two couples who are longtime friends. Gabe and Karen watch as the couple they fixed up long ago, Tom and Beth, come to the end of their marriage. Because of this, Gabe and Karen worry about their own marriage, wondering if they are doomed to the same fate. Dinner with Friends is witty and clever, thought-provoking, if disappointing, relationship play. It would be even more thought-provoking if both couples were shown equally. As it is, the play shows more of the depth of the relationship of Gabe and Karen, and little of the relationship of Tom and Beth. We see Tom and Beth as individuals, before and after their marriage, but we never see them as a couple and only know of their married relationship from each party's bitter post-breakup reports, hardly an objective view.

Michael Oberlander as Gabe, Raye Lankford as Beth, and Henny Russell as Karen
Though it may be difficult to keep the names of each couple straight when reading about the play, it's very clear in the theatre which are in the Successful Relationship (Gabe and Karen) and which are in the Unsuccessful Relationship (Tom and Beth). Michael Oberlander plays Gabe as a likable, openhearted and caring man, and Henny Russell's Karen is the exact match, the other bookend; as a couple they are almost blandly good folk. Rufus Collins and Raye Lankford's Tom and Beth, however, are much more self-centered and "bigger" personalities. It appears that one of the questions posed is "why do Tom and Beth breakup and not Gabe and Karen?" But the answer must be deeper than "he only thinks of himself and she's annoying." If we could see what kind of relationship they had together, the study of the two couples would be much deeper. Oberlander, Russell, Collins, and Lankford are good actors, but they must share responsbility for the one-sidedness of the presentation along with author Marguiles and director Michael Montel. Another dilemma addressed, but not completely explored, is the fate of the friendships involved in a foursome once one couple breaks up.

The Public production is nicely done, with a serviceable set by Bill Clarke (including the currently ubiquitous "sky and clouds" painted cyclorama). A nice touch is the incidental music provided by composer Gregory D. Sendler.

Dinner with Friends runs at the O'Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave, through April 14. Performances are Tuesday - Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. on March 30, April 6 and 13. Tickets range from $21-43. Full-time students or anyone 26 and under, with valid ID, may purchase advance tickets for $10 (available at door for Friday and Saturday evening performances). For tickets and further information, call (412) 316-1600 or visit the Public's Box Office at the O'Reilly Theater, or visit www.ppt.org.

Dinner with Friends
Sponsored by Alpern, Rosenthal and Company.

Photo: Suellen Fitzsimmons

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