Potent production of 'Dinner With Friends' at Dramaworks

Review

Potent production of 'Dinner With Friends' at Dramaworks

Mar 3 2011
Hap Erstein | Palm Beach Post

The verdict:  (A-)  Margulies' Pulitzer-winning look at marriage and friendships, sorely tested by the stress of divorce, in a well-performed, potent production. If you think sustaining a marriage is difficult, consider how hard it is hold onto a close friendship. That challenge is on playwright Donald Margulies's mind in his 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Dinner with Friends, which charts the emotional toll of a shattered marriage on not only the marriage of the divorcing couple's best friends, but on the friendship itself. Loaded with insights, laced with pain and so well written that it would be hard not to identify with at least one of Margulies' four 40-something characters, Dinner with Friends stands up to the thought-provoking standards of Palm Beach Dramaworks. And the West Palm Beach company returns the favor with a gut-wrenching and often quite funny production, directed by J. Barry Lewis... ...We have seen plays and films where divorce leads to uncomfortable reactions over who gets "custody" of which half of the newly divided couple. What makes Dinner with Friends stand out is the exploration of what marriage means after passion has cooled and what's left is dealing with kids, bills and humdrum household minutia. ...The entire cast is making its Dramaworks debut. Erin Joy Schmidt, recently seen in Goldie, Max & Milk, is a standout as stubbornly loyal, yet parentally controlling Karen. Jim Ballard's Gabe is less judgmental, more conflicted and ultimately more burdened by the fate he had chosen for himself. Sarah Grace Wilson (Beth) and Eric Martin Brown (Tom) are husband and wife in real life, which may explain the authenticity of their first-act verbal battle royal. ...Margulies writes plays that manage to be profound without being lofty or philosophical. Dinner with Friends is about us all, as the discussions that will surely arise on your trip home from Palm Beach Dramaworks.