Dinner with Friends
Artists Repertory Theater
Through April 28

Gabe and Karen (Grant Byington and Susannah Mars) are the kind of people who make gorgeous dinners for their friends and then explain exactly why each individual dish is so delicious. They take trips to exotic places like Italy and tell their guests stories about it for hours on end. Tom and Beth (Michael Fisher-Welch and Sarah Lucht) are the couple at the other end of the stick. Tom and Beth can't cook, and they don't take trips together. They don't really even get along, but in the eyes of a couple like Gabe and Karen, Tom and Beth are still a "happy" couple, and the four of them will always be happy together as long as Tom and Beth continue to come over and eat dinners and hear stories about Italy. In Gabe and Karen's eyes, the two couples are maintaining marriages, the only source of true happiness. Dinner With Friends is a deconstruction of the kind of happiness that couples like Gabe and Karen fiercely advocate, and supposedly have.

The idea that the happiest looking couples may be hiding something from the world and from themselves is by no means original. But playwright Donald Marguiles has given it a fresh spin by using divorce between Tom and Beth as a catalyst for Gabe and Karen's happiness analysis. Tom and Beth both immediately become happier people--both sexually and otherwise--following their divorce, and though Gabe and Karen chastise them for this, it also forces them to notice that their facade of nice cooking and family values--that once had a pot of passion simmering underneath--has, over the years, become just a facade.

ART's production and Margulies' script manages to drag this idea out for nearly two and a half hours and yet, the play never grows tiresome. Margulies' has a keen ear for the nuances of human conversation, and his dialogue crackles with life and humor. The four actors are stellar, with Sarah Lucht making the strongest impression as a woman who will always be aimless in life because of her dependency on male companionship for validation.

A word of warning: Do not see this play hungry. Food is talked about constantly and eaten constantly. The play's length will increase proportionately to how empty your stomach is.