Friday, September 21, 2012

DINNER WITH FRIENDS • Dramatic License Productions

As the plays opens, married couple Gabe (Christopher Hickey) and Karen (Michelle Hand) are telling their good friend Beth (Sarah Cannon) all of the details about their latest vacation.  Beth has brought over her kids to play with Gabe and Karen's kids, but her husband Tom (Chad Morris), is out of town on business.  In the middle of lemon almond polenta cake, a visibly shaken Beth tells her friends that Tom has left her.

Sarah Cannon (Beth), Michelle Hand (Karen)
and Christopher Hickey (Gabe).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Breakups between couples usually always result in some level of tumult in the family, but Donald Margulies's Pulitzer Prize-winning comic-drama, takes a look at how divorce can yield more casualties than just the couple who has decided to go their separate ways.

Alliances are immediately drawn when Beth explains the situation.  Apparently, Tom has fallen in love with another woman.  Karen sides with Beth, and Gabe tries to remain out of the fray.  Later that night at Beth and Tom's house, Tom unexpectedly stops by -- he can't get out of the airport because of bad weather.  Tom is livid when Beth tells him that she's broken the news of their split to their friends, as they were supposed to break the news to Karen and Gabe together.

Sarah Cannon (Beth) and Chad Morris (Tom).
Photo credit: John Lamb
In an effort to explain his side of the story, Tom drives to Karen and Gabe's, but Karen has already made up her mind and heads up to bed.  The men hash it out, and Tom's story causes Gabe to consider Tom's viewpoint, and take a look at his own relationship with his wife.

In the second act, we time travel back to when Tom and Beth were first introduced by Gabe and Karen.  *Sigh*…  Happier times.  Skipping ahead again, during subsequent meetings between Karen and Beth, as well as Gabe and Tom, we get a peek at how their individual perspectives, and friendships, have changed.

Sarah Cannon (Beth), Chad Morris (Tom),
Michelle Hand (Karen) and Christopher Hickey (Gabe).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Under Gary Wayne Barker's flawless direction, each of these four top-notch actors completely disappear into their roles.  Hand and Hickey make a perfectly believable couple -- equally believable when their mutual wavering starts to show.  Cannon is marvelous as Beth, offering up a full range of emotions throughout, and Morris plays Tom with astute clarity.  Jason Coale's set was cool.  I like to think of it as a "sliding tilt-glass" set, with walls and panels moving in and out to accommodate various locations, along with the help of Peggy Knock's props.  Nathan Schroeder's lighting and Jane Sullivan's costumes were also perfect, and "invisible".  Kudos also to Joseph T. Pini's sound design, especially, "the kids upstairs".  This was a great production all-around, and I must say, there was a fire alarm just minutes before the end of the first act, and everyone, especially the guys, weren't ruffled a bit.

Go see it.  It's playing until the 30th.

Michelle Hand (Karen) and Christopher Hickey (Gabe).
Photo credit: John Lamb

Written by Donald Margulies
Directed by Gary Wayne Barker
Dramatic License Productions, Chesterfield Mall (upper level entrance, next to Houlihans)
through September 30 | tickets: $22 - $25
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm

Sarah Cannon (Beth), Michelle Hand (Karen), Christopher Hickey* (Gabe), and Chad Morris (Tom).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Scenic design by Jason Coale; lighting design by Nathan Schroeder; costume design by Jane Sullivan; sound design by Joseph T. Pini; props mistress, Peggy Knock; stage manager, Johanna Beck.

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