What a fantastic show.
The Imago Theatre have outdone themselves with their latest, written and directed by Imago's own Carol Triffle: The Dinner is a hilarious unpacking of all the insecurity and anxiety and jealousy and resentment that could possibly be contained in one ill-fated dinner party.
Dolores is a housewife and aspiring writer whose pretensions are a little bit sweet and a little bit sad: "I'm feeling very ennui," she tells us at the beginning of the show. She's preparing for an important night—she's invited a famous author to dinner at her house, along with her husband and mixed-up family, but she doesn't know how to set the table properly, so she's consulting Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette. Do you need to set out a soup spoon if you're not serving soup? Her family members arrive at dinner before the author does, and with the addition of each person, from her prim, judgmental mother to her smug, know-it-all sister, the likelihood that this party will go off all right seems slimmer and slimmer. When the author arrives (Darren McCarthy, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Edward Scissorhands), the sheer, bold ridiculousness of this production peaks in a recitation of erotic fiction that had the audience both giggling and squirming in embarrassment.
The show is consistently funny, but not to be taken lightly: There are points at which the anxiety level conveyed here is so genuinely affecting I was practically reaching for my inhaler. Campy, over-the-top characters transmit genuine pathos, particularly the excellent Danielle Vermette as Dolores (nickname: Dodo), the pretty, loopy, easily underestimated hostess. The acting is consistently great. The set design: screwy and off-kilter and perspective defying, just like the script.
Writer Carol Triffle has a keen sense of the subterranean motivations driving people to act the way they do: Witness the character of Lucy, Dolores' sister, a resentful, status-obsessed social climber who relies on her successful friends to make her own life seem more interesting. The Dinner is a post-modern exploration of the theatrical in everyday life: It's stylish, smart, funny, and clocks in at a brisk, intermission-less 60 minutes. It's hilariously uncomfortable, completely original, and utterly worth seeing.