Dinner With Friends a perfect choice

Dinner With Friends examines the relationship of two couples whose friendship began in their youth. Karen (Margaret Raether) and Gabe (Stephen F. Vrtol III) learn at an intimate dinner that their dearest friends, Beth (Linda Abronski) and Tom (Richard Raether) are divorcing. The trauma for Karen and Gabe is the loss of a significant part of their own lives and their forced recognition of the changes in their own marriage.

Last year, the Goodman Theatre staged Dinner With Friends. My initial reaction—a rather trivial piece with 40-somethings too focused on personal problems. Re-reading a piece of fiction often gives one a completely different view, and this production has done exactly that. The strength of the cast and fine direction by Daniel Scott give real meaning to the complicated lives of these four people.

Loss, whether by death or separation, induces the same emotional reactions. Anger, then the attempt to blame someone for taking a loved one away, is unreasonable, but it happens. The playwright, Donald Margulies, won the Pulitzer Prize for Dinner With Friends and says, “I could not have written the piece… earlier in my life. I had to have lived in order to write it.”

The opening night audience responded to every nuance. The subtle dialogue and overt sexual references require sophistication and intelligence. The loyal friends and supporters gave the cast exactly what they needed.

In the final scene, Gabe and Karen, beginning another summer on Martha’s Vineyard, are in bed with their books and reading glasses. Where has the joy gone? The details of everyday life consumes us. In a moment of truth, Vrtol’s comment on what has changed… (we’ve lost) “abandonment.”

Playing to sold-out houses, Artists’ Ensemble combines experienced actors, a support group of technicians and designers, and a staff able to market and acquire the financial means to make a new company a success.

The premiere season continues with the current show running through Sept. 19. Coming up: Inspecting Carol, Dec. 10-19, and Over the River and Through the Woods, May 20-29. For further ticket information and season tickets, call 391-5111.

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