The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

A two-act play, Dinner with Friends intertwines the lives of Gabe and Karen, food writers, and their close friends Tom and his wife Beth. Act 1 opens over dinner in Gabe and Karen’s kitchen on a snowy evening in Connecticut. Tom is away on business, and Beth sits quietly as Gabe and Karen animatedly describe their recent excursion to Italy. In between descriptions of the old Italian cook and her pasta pomodoro, and shouts from the children upstairs, the scene is one of warm, if somewhat fussy, banter about food and travel. Beth soon dissolves into tears and informs the distressed couple that her husband has had an affair and wants a divorce. The scene concludes as Beth prepares to leave, but not without sampling dessert.

The scene shifts to Tom and Beth’s cluttered bedroom, where Beth prepares for bed. Tom enters, apologizing for the intrusion. Beth confesses that she divulged their marital troubles. Furious, Tom accuses Beth of biasing their friends against him. Each angrily reminds the other of past injuries. The argument turns violent when Beth slaps Tom, and Tom throws Beth onto the bed, pinning her there. However, the violence arouses both, and the scene ends with lovemaking.

Later that evening snuggling on the sofa, Gabe and Karen discuss how Karen would have responded if Gabe had been unfaithful. Headlights appear through the window. Tom enters and asks for a fair hearing, but Karen refuses to listen and leaves the room. Over leftovers and wine, Gabe tries to offer advice, but Tom does not want it. “My head is spinning with shoulds and shouldn’ts,” says...

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Much of the play’s “cut to the bone” realism is achieved by the use of overlapping dialogue. Characters engage in a very natural, humorous interplay of ideas, often speaking simultaneously. At times, the lines illustrate the comfort that the speakers feel with one another. During the opening scene, Karen and Gabe seem to speak as one when they describe Italian cuisine: Gabe: Anyway, the pomodoro. Karen: The pomodoro was amazing. Gabe: And simple. Karen: Amazingly simple.

Gabe and Karen seem like Olympic skaters, executing an improvised routine with practiced ease. Here Margulies uses the humor of simultaneous speech to create the impression of closeness. However, Margulies also uses overlapping dialogue as a symbol of the characters’ inability to communicate deeply. As Karen and Beth share lunch several months after Beth’s breakup with Tom, Karen tries to catch up with her friend:Karen: I’d leave messages and you’d wouldn’t call back right away. . . . Beth: (Over “. . . right away. . . .”) I know, I’m sorry. I needed some time to myself. You know. Karen: You’re not mad at me or anything, are you? Beth: (Over “. . . are you?”) Mad at you? Why should I be mad...

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Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

Browse the shelves of any bookstore, and it's easy to see one hot topic on the mind of Americans: it's divorce. There are over three thousand...

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Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Margulies begins his play in what he terms the present. Time progresses throughout the first act. In order to fill in...

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Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

In Margulies' play, Dinner with Friends, the following lines make commercial references: "DAD' WE WANT TO WATCH THE AJRISTOCATS'" and...

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Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

Marguhes wrote a film adaptation of Dinner with Friends, which Norman Jewison directed for HBO, released in 2001.

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What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Margulies' Collected Stories (1996) was a 1997 Pulitzer Prize finalist for drama. The play concerns the developing relationship...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Albis, Theron,"In the Spotlight, Donald Margulies,'' http.// www stagenscreen com/ (2000).

Denton, Martin,...

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(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Brustein, Robert. “Plays Fat and Thin.” Review of Dinner with Friends. The New Republic 222 (April 17, 2000): 64-66.

Margulies, Donald. “A Playwright’s Search for the Spiritual Father.” New York Times Current Events Edition, June 21, 1992, p. 25.

Marks, Peter. “A Menu Featuring Divorce and Fear.” New York Times, November 5, 1999, p. E4.

Pogrebin, Robin. “At the Junction of Life and Art.” New York Times, March 3, 2000, p. E1.