Tuesday, 3 November 2015

REVIEW - Dinner With Friends, Park Theatre

Four Stars

RELATIONSHIPS in general and friendships and marriage in particular are put under the microscope in Donald Margulies’ play Dinner With Friends.
The Pulitzer winning piece is currently being staged at the Park Theatre and has as one of its four stars, Brockley actor Shaun Dooley.

Shaun Dooley as Gabe and Sara Stewart as Karen

Set in America, it features two couples – the seemingly impossibly perfect Karen and Gabe and their best friends, Beth and Tom, who they introduced shortly after they were married.
It begins during a dinner party in which Karen and Gabe, both successful food writers, are boring the pants off Beth about their recent gastronomic trip to Italy.
But all is not as it seems for Beth is about ready to drop a bombshell – that Tom has done the dirty on her by having an affair and walking out on her and their kids.
It hits Beth hard but seems as though it hits her friends even harder. Both Karen and Gabe are left reeling – why had they not seen this coming? How could Tom do this? What will happen to their friendship with this couple who are now no longer a couple? Could this happen to them? Their perfect world now looks a bit precarious.

Hari Dhillon as Tom

When Tom finds out Beth has already told their friends he comes over later that night to put his side of the story across – worried that Karen and Gabe have already taken sides against him.
Sadly for him Karen has already cut him off her Christmas card list.
However, the fall out results in both Karen and Gabe looking at their own relationship and wondering if everything is as perfect as it should be or as they think it is.
Gabe in particular goes from being confident and assured in his marriage to become angry at Tom for breaking up his perfect world and anxious about whether the same thing could happen to him and Karen.
All four actors put in fine performances in what is a well staged, poignant and funny production.
Finty Williams as Beth tugs at the heartstrings with her vulnerability but is then giddy with excitement – like a teenager – once she’d moved on and found new love.

Finty Williams as Beth

Hari Dhillon is perfectly awful as the smug, swaggering cheater Tom who stuns best friend Gabe with the ease in which he has left Beth and moved on to find love elsewhere.
Shaun Dooley is particularly good as Gabe. His initial lack of tact, awareness and comments at inappropriate moments were hilarious but he too showed a vulnerable side when he talked of “clinging” to his wife and the fear he felt about his own relationship.
And Sara Stewart as the smug Karen who is forced to reassess her relationship with Gabe was a delight.
It is a beautifully written and finely observed piece – showing the precarious nature of relationships and that most couples don’t listen to each other half the time and then wonder why things go wrong. And for any of us who have been or are in relationships there were moments in the dialogue that were probably uncomfortably familiar.

Dinner With Friends is on at the Park Theatre until November 28. Visit www.parktheatre.co.uk/ for full listings.

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