Dinner done right
Dinner With Friends
Sacramento, CA 95815
No one ever really knows what goes on inside a marriage except the people who are in it—and even then, there’s a lot of room for perception. Donald Margulies’ 1998 play Dinner With Friends shows us how the implosion of one marriage can send tremors running through another because of all the questions raised about perception and reality.
Of course, there’s an added complication in this production: Director Kirk Blackinton has decided to rotate the roles among his four actors (Scott Divine, Beth Edwards, Brian Harrower and Shannon Mahoney), so that on any given night, it’s a slightly different play. This is a very demanding decision, and one that would be far more difficult to pull off if Blackinton hadn’t cast four excellent actors, all Big Idea regulars, who are more than able to rise to the challenge.
It’s also a dash of genius, because it opens up all sorts of possibilities in the play as each actor takes his or her own turn with the roles—and in these tough times for local stage, it gives the audience a good reason to come back more than once. But it makes a critique of individual performances almost impossible, since the cast reviewed will almost certainly not be the same cast in the next performance. Fortunately, that’s not much of a problem, either; these guys know what they’re doing.
The play offers up another theatrical hurdle, deftly leaped by the BIT company: Dinner With Friends is a prop-heavy show (including food, since one of the couples make “foodies” seem like a minor descriptor—they’re traveling gourmet chefs). In addition, there are five different settings required, and frankly, those sorts of plays are a critic’s nightmare, since they usually mean excessive blackouts and plenty of fumbling in the dark with dishes.
Not to fear—BIT has put as much energy into the tech as they have the performances. The set, designed by Justin Muñoz, is a smooth-running dream, transforming from living room to bedroom to seaside cottage to street cafe in just a few quick flips. As for the mass of props used, stage manager Wade Lucas and assistant stage manager Alysha S. Krumm have it all under control—with assistance from the actors—so that blackouts don’t last more than a few seconds. It’s a lesson in how stagecraft ought to run—invisibly. It’s such a thankless job because, generally, no one notices unless it’s screwed up. This one is nearly seamless.
That makes for two hours of very enjoyable theater that takes a good, long look at the ways we love—and what it looks like when we stop loving.