Dinner with Friends at Park Theatre
The Pulitzer Prize-winning play Dinner with Friends explores the relationship between two couples as they come together and fall apart. The stellar cast weave a tale that questions love, marriage, expectations and if true happiness can ever be found. Food is the common link running through the play: demonstrating passion, breaking the tension and a metaphor for the decline of relationships.
The blank white floor and minimalist set, changed by the actors themselves, quickly shifts into different locations. However, the shelved backdrop stays the same, the bottles and dishes placed upon them indicating the passage of time and the memories that remain in their shared experiences.
Hari Dhillon plays Tom, who is taking a leap by leaving his wife to pursue love and passionate sex. He is at times callous and insensitive, trying to justify some of his behaviour. However, he is also sympathetic in his fallibility. Finty Williams is the wronged, although not blameless, Beth, an ultimately resilient woman who finds her own strength pursuing her true desires. Sara Stewart plays Karen as self-assured and loyal, not only to her friend but to the life she and Gabe believed in, even if the passion behind it has gone. Shaun Dooley’s Gabe is living in relative bliss until his world, and what he had hoped for out of life, is as affected by his friends’ break-up as they are.
Dinner with Friends explores friendships as much as marriages. At one point Karen and Gabe discuss how distant they now feel from their friends, that they no longer recognise them. Gabe laments that he no longer loves Tom, a jarring statement from a character who is otherwise jovial and laid back. The admission of platonic love between these two men makes its decline all the more poignant.
Tom and Beth pursue their happiness, losing not only one another but an element of the bond with their friends as well. We are left with the final question: does this indicate that these friendships could not survive without the perfect couple being able reflect off their dysfunctional mirror image?
Photos: David Monteith-Hodge
Dinner with Friends is on at Park Theatre from 27th October until 28th November, for further information or to book visit here.