Dinner With Friends review at the Park Theatre, London – ‘surprising depth’

Dinner With Friends at the Park Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Dinner With Friends at the Park Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

The middle-class dinner party. The chats about fancy cheese and the astringency of the Shiraz. The affairs, the regrets and the recriminations. Dinner With Friends has been cooked up with the most familiar of ingredients, but despite the familiarity of the theme, Donald Margulies Pulitzer-winning play has scenes of surprising sympathy and depth, and is truly well served in Tom Attenborough’s smart production.

Gabe and Karen are happy – nauseatingly happy – and as they cruise into their 40s their future seems secure and spread out ahead of them. But when friends Tom and Beth’s marriage smashes onto the rocks, it forces them to question the building blocks of their own happiness, and the decisions that draw them through their lives.

Shaun Dooley is particularly good as the complacent food critic Gabe, quiet and acquiescent until a storming confrontation with love rat Tom, but it’s a strong cast all round. A late scene between Dooley and Sara Stewart as his appalling wife Karen is brilliantly played in the dim bedroom light.

However little you want to care for these four abominable people, contorted with angst about the damage infidelity has wrecked on their cosy summers in Martha’s Vineyard, Margulies has constructed his play with tact and skill. It may be a meagre and over-chewed theme, but Dinner With Friends probes it with considerable truth and perspicacity.

Verdict
A fine production for a play that’s smarter and subtler than its overfamiliar theme suggests
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