Saturday, June 20, 2015

Dinner with Friends shakes up the Mad Cow Theater.

Mad Cow Theater (54 W Church St, Orlando, Fl) presents Donald Margulies' Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Dinner with Friends which travels through space and time to paint two pictures of contemporary marriage. Gabe (Brian Brightman) and Karen (Ame Livingston) are happily married while their friends Tom (Cameron Francis) and Beth (Becky Eck) are on the verge of divorce. As Tom and Beth fight for the support of their seemingly happy counterparts, Gabe and Karen begin to question the stability of their own relationship. A portrait of interconnected love and loss, Dinner with Friends beautifully depicts the burdens we build out of our most intimate relationships.

In the opening scene, Beth is having dinner with Gabe and Karen who are the consummate hosts. They are undeniably foodies who prepared a delicious Italian dinner. One chair remained mysteriously empty. When they moved to the living room, Beth broke into tears confiding that Tom was going to leave her. Unfortunately I couldn't see the revelation because it was staged in a corner of the set that I couldn't see.

Tom was leaving Beth because he met a travel agent and fell in love. 12 years of marriage and children were a thought of the past. When a flight is canceled he returned home to Beth and they have a huge fight. He was furious that Beth told their friends about the looming divorce he wanted to tell them the news as a couple. He never actually believed in Beth's artistic talents and he let her know this in his rage. This fight almost escalated to blows but then, in the midst of their fury, they kissed and fell into bed while ripping off each others clothes.

The next act flashed back to Martha's Vinyard where Gabe and Karen introduced Tom to Beth. I identified with Beth since she was an artist. I was rather surprised that she refused to show Tom her sketchbook. Why create art if you aren't willing to share it? When I was first dating Terry, I showed her my sketches, but when she asked for one to keep, I refused. That surprised her, but I am a professional. You don't give it away when you know what it is worth.

Beth quickly met another man and is ready for another committed relationship. Karen thinks this is a bad idea, feeling that Beth might be better of taking time to be alone. This results in a fight between friends. Beth feels that Karen always wants her to be an emotional mess. The men have a similar fall out since Gabe can't understand how Tom could throw away 12 years of marriage. Tom confided that he did a test to see how often Beth touched him. Hy realized he never experienced her touch unless he initiated the embrace. Gabe and Karen start experiencing trouble and examine their own marriage. Karen shares a dream and Gabe doesn't share enough of himself when they talk about it. "I need you to talk to me!" she shouts at him.

Directed by Denise Gillman, the play is an emotional roller coaster. One couple seemed so much happier when they separate but hope remained that the other couple can remain committed.  They cling to each other as if abandoned in a life raft in a raging sea. As I left the theater I had to wait as a woman hugged all her friend in my row. I was the only person in the row that wasn't one of her friends. "You want a hug as well?" She asked me. "Sure" I replied, laughing as I opened my arms. I probably flushed as we embraced, but darn it, I needed that hug.

Mad Cow Theater 54 W Church St, Orlando, Fl
Zehngebot-Stonerock Theatre  (Mad Cow Black Box)
Dinner With Friends runs June 19 - July 19
Thursdays - Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 3:00pm

Special Discount Performances on Saturday, July 4 (6:30pm) and Wednesday, July 15 (8:00pm)

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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