Themes and Meanings
Two themes common in all of Margulies’s plays are relationships and loss. In Dinner with Friends the impact that divorce has on close friends produces painful self-examination. While the play appears to cover well-traveled territory, Margulies’s deft, wry dialogue probes honestly the tender places that lie beneath any long-term relationship.
The theme of loss is introduced at the outset as Tom is absent from the dinner Gabe and Karen have prepared for their friends. At the end of act 1, Karen’s angry departure suggests the rifts that quickly form between the couples. Only in a single scene in act 2 do all four characters appear together.
At its core, the play focuses less on the couple who divorce than on the impact the divorce has on Gabe and Karen. Underneath the cultured exterior of Gabe and Karen lies a creeping insecurity slowly unearthed by the aftershocks caused by Tom and Beth’s break up. Self-examination follows as seemingly permanent constants are shattered. Reflecting on Beth’s affair ten years earlier, Karen comes to question the years they shared with Beth and Tom. Gabe seems to be the most disturbed by Tom and Beth’s decisions. He passionately, if not clumsily, challenges Tom to validate the years their families spent together. “This misery you describe, this agony. Gee, I thought we were all just living out lives, you know? . . . I thought you were there, wholeheartedly there. And now you’re...
(The entire section is 459 words.)