Park Theatre 27 October – 28 November. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Dinner With Friends is a Pulitzer Prize winning play, and you can see why from the first scene. The writing is slick, insightful and very, very funny.
Karen and Gabe are a successful couple that REALLY know about food. Their friends, Tom and Beth are not so happy, and when they find out that Tom has left Beth, Karen and Gabe are horrified and begin to question their relationship with the other couple.
The cast effortlessly create the illusion of a well established friendship, talking over the end of each other’s sentences and sharing glances. Sara Stewart (Karen) and Shaun Dooley (Gabe) are brilliant – they talk over each other, contradict and correct each other, and carry out hysterical tag team descriptions – in excruciating detail – of their Italian vacation. A very believable couple that being friends with would be both wonderful and excruciating in equal measures. Finty Williams (Beth) and Hari Dhillon (Tom) are full of rage, denial and self-justification in their scenes together and both actors portray the changes in the couple’s outlook and demeanour over time with great sensitivity. As they hear descriptions of their friends’ new, separate, lives, Stewart and Dooley’s reactions are sublime, and Williams and Dhillon deliver some home truths to the other couple with an expert blend of sweetness and exasperation.
The exploration of relationships, marriages, and how they evolve is explored sincerely, but with no preaching and a huge dash of realistic humour. The realisation that your life will probably never turn out as you imagined when you were young, and the changes and responsibilities that children bring are dealt with. Should you walk away from something that is making you unhappy? Or keep working at it and appreciate what you have?
Dinner With Friends is a grown up piece of theatre with grown up themes, but it reveals the lost child within each of the characters, searching for and clinging on to love. This is a wonderful play, full of fantastic performances and well worth seeing.