The new Off-Broadway revival of Donald Margulies’ 1999 Pulitzer-winning comedic drama “Dinner with Friends,” which is probably the finest production of the play any of us are ever likely to see, also serves as a reminder of Margulies’ importance as a sober-minded, psychologically astute and socially observant writer.
Margulies has never achieved the same name recognition as some of his fellow contemporary playwrights who gain notoriety for violence, vulgarity or gimmicks.
In “Dinner with Friends,” the lives of Karen (Marin Hinkle) and Gabe (Jeremy Shamos), a well-adjusted married couple, are shaken up when the news spills that Beth (Heather Burns) and Tom (Darren Pettie), their best friends, are divorcing.
As Karen and Gabe try to understand the circumstances leading to the divorce, hearing first from a despondent Beth and later from an indignant Tom who demands that his side of the story be heard too, Karen and Gabe wonder how this will affect their lives. What about their annual trips to Martha’s Vineyard?
They ponder whether their setting up Beth and Tom in the first place was a bad idea. After all, Tom is a gruff attorney while Beth is a free-spirited artist. And after witnessing just how quickly Beth and Tom move on, Karen and Gabe are forced to re-evaluate how the friendship operated and confront the stability of their own marriage.
Rather like a great conductor handling a chamber orchestra, Pam MacKinnon, who directed last season’s lauded “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” revival, finds a perfect balance among her four actors, all of whom turn in convincing and absorbing performances.