Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies (2000)

Summary:  Karen and Gabe and Tom and Beth are two couples that have each been married for about twelve years.  At a routine dinner, Beth reveals that Tom has left her—sending Karen and Gabe into examinations of their own marriage.  These examinations include a long flashback-scene twelve years prior when they were newlyweds introducing Tom and Beth on a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.  By the final act, Tom and Beth have both told Karen and Gabe that they are happier now that they are separated and that they have found new partners that make them both feel more alive.  This makes Karen and Gabe question the banality of their marriage, but Gabe ultimately says (to Tom):  "The key to civilization, I think, is fighting the impluse to chuck it all."

Thoughts:  Another play in the collection where not much happens outside of a few interpersonal relationships.  A hyper-realistic portrayal of how people who are very comfortable with each other fight featuring a few different examples:  pointed glances across the room (don’t let the company see!), intense couple’s argumentation where the wronged party demands high status ending in violent (though fantastic!) sex and revelatory fighting between friends who have suppressed their small grievances and annoyances for years.

In a year where the other two nominees were Suzan-Lori Parks and August Wilson, it is perhaps interesting to note that this play is full of the privileged white experience.  Karen and Gabe have just returned from a fantastic vacation to Italy, the two couples have vacationed together multiple times in Martha’s Vineyard and Karen, Gabe and Tom have decidedly white-collar day-jobs while Beth does not work and instead is allowed the financial freedom to pursue painting—which Tom, Gabe and Karen all “secretly” dislike. 

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