Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 22, 2011

Dinner with Friends

New Century Theatre, Northampton, MA
through July 23, 2011
by Jennifer Curran

"Dinner with Friends" was first presented won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000. The play focuses on two married couples who vacation together, dine together and raise their children together and what happens when one of the marriages ends seemingly abruptly.

The upper-class Gabe (Sam Rush) and Karen (Kathy McCafferty) is the couple trying to understand what happened to their friends' marriage and more importantly, what that says about their own lives and partnership. As Tom (David Mason) and Beth (Brianne Beatrice) let go of their union and reveal the truth about their lives to their friends, Gabe and Karen are left struggling to deal with possible weak spots in their own marriage.

With beautiful set design by Jacquelyn Marolt that puts the audience smack dab in the middle of Connecticut suburbia or the coast of Martha's Vineyard, gorgeous lighting by Daniel D. Rist and understated costume design by Emily Justice Dunn, everything is in place to create a perfect playground for willing and capable actors.

It's always surprising when a professional theatre fails to remember some of the basics. The director's hand is seen in awkward movements and blocking which gets in the way of the action. In moments that were clearly written to be light-hearted to reveal an unspoken intimacy or the closeness of the characters, the lines tend to fall flat or sound over-wrought.

That isn't to say that there isn't much to like about "Dinner." David Mason provides a man reborn in his flawed but lovable Tom. Sam Rush's Gabe offers a reaction to his friend's departure from assumed domestic bliss with just the right amount of horror and hurt. There a person in the room who wasn't silently cheering for Brianne Beatrice's Beth as she offers up some brutal honesty to her friend Karen.  And then in the center of it all is Karen herself.

Kathy McCafferty's performance is excellent. Her character's desperate need to hear the words, to feel the feelings, to be reminded that it is in fact all worth it in the end is as universal to marriage as car pools and dinners with friends.