Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 325
The deceptively simple premise of My Dinner with André is what the title states. Two men converse over dinner in a restaurant. The authors are also the protagonists, who appear to be representing themselves: Wallace Shawn, the subject of the title, and André Gregory, with whom he is dining. As a play, however, it is apparently intended to be performed repeatedly. In this respect, it cannot truly represent a dinner because in real life each dining experience would be unique, including the topics of conversation. As the authors fix their personas in the text, they reduce their individualism and authenticity, become facsimiles of themselves.
From the wide-ranging themes the characters discuss, the audience learns that they are cosmopolitan, erudite men of letters. The play is framed by Wally, who provides the back-story about his relationship with André, primarily a director who had been his mentor, and his own struggles to establish himself as an actor and a writer. The majority of the play takes places in the restaurant, however. In consisting primarily of a dialogue between two friends, from which the audience elicits differences of wealth and power, and equals, and having the action largely restricted to a single setting, the play owes a debt to Waiting for Godot and the plays it influenced, such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
Although the restaurant setting implies a connection to the real world, the numerous self-conscious references to the theater suggest that the primary subject is the artifice of theatricality. In addition, André speaks at length about travel, especially the religious and culturally diverse experiences he had in the years since he had last seen Wally; the contrast to the immediacy of the singular, two-hour real time of the performance further heightens the sense of artifice. The character of the waiter, who occasionally intrudes with appropriate questions about the meal, offers a hint of the class divisions that separate the protagonists’ theatrical world from quotidian reality.