Archikulture Digest

Dinner With Friends

Dinner With Friends

By Donald Margulies

Directed by Denise Gillman

Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL</strong>

There’s enough story material here to dig an open pit Plot Point mine and start shipping subtext worldwide. Gabe (Brain Brightman) and Karen (Ame Livingston) are the perfect couple – they screen Shiraz for astringency, build almond lemon cakes out of polenta, and probably make their own Vanilla extract on weekends. Best friend Beth (Becky Eck) is over for dinner; its all gastronomic travelogue and foodie one-upmanship until she drops the bomb: absent hubby Tom (Cameron Frances) isn’t just off on a business trip to DC; he’s ditching her for a younger sexier model. So we’re off on a journey of fidelity vs. excitement, commitment vs independence, and most importantly: how do Gabe and Karen relate to each other now their best friends with everything shattered?

Mr. Brightman is the horn rimmed bastion of rationality and rectitude; he’s garrulous and insightful until confronted with questions about feelings, and then he clams up. Wise move. This infuriates Ms. Livingston. Her response is both guttural and moral; shes all in favor of cutting Tom out of their lives, cutting off his privates and serving them to him with with fava beans and a fine Washington State chardonnay. Ms. Eck is energetic and eager as the wounded woman. Her high moral ground stands on a tower of cardboard boxes; but you still want to tuck her into bed and read her bed time tales of fighting codependency. Mr. Francis occupies the more juvenile “Hey, whatever feels good” level which would be fine except he has a couple of planned kids on his tax form. While personally unaffected, he’s basically the 800 pound jerk in this cage.

Along with the extensive set shifts (and I LOVED the folding Midcentury stone wall) and extensive foodie chat there was an interesting choice on stage. I spent most of the show trying to figure out if Gabe had a big secret to reveal. Even though it was easy to guess what it would have been he either remained pure or silent, so I may have guessed wrong. The text said one ting, the actions another. A poignant line flew by: “Men don’t talk to you for years, then it’s just to tell you they are leaving.” Here we have both options played to a solid but short term end point. Guys, you might want to talk sports on the ride home.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit

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