Dinner with Friends

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Dinner With Friends
Written by Donald Margulies
Characters Karen and Gabe
Tom and Beth
Date premiered 1998
Place premiered Humana Festival of New American Plays
Original language English
Setting Connecticut

Dinner with Friends is a play written by Donald Margulies. It premiered at the 1998 Humana Festival of New American Plays and opened Off-Broadway in 1999.[1] The play received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

Gabe and Karen, a happily married middle-aged couple, have been friends with Tom and Beth, another married couple, for many years. In fact, it was Gabe and Karen who fixed up their friends in the first place. While having dinner at Gabe and Karen's home, Beth tearfully reveals that she is getting a divorce from Tom, who has been unfaithful.[3]

Tom, who had been away on business, finds out that Beth has told their friends about the looming divorce, and hastens to Gabe and Karen's home. Tom and Beth had planned to tell their friends about their breakup together, but Tom now believes that Beth has unfairly presented herself as the wronged party, and feels he must present his own side of the story.

Over the course of the play, we see both couples at different ages and stages of their lives, and we witness the effects of Tom and Beth's breakup on Gabe and Karen, who first feel compelled to choose sides, and then begin to question the strength of their own seemingly tranquil marriage. They also begin to see the real meaning behind their friendships with Tom and Beth.


Dinner with Friends premiered Off-Broadway at the Variety Arts Theatre on November 4, 1999, after previews from October 22 and an out of town tryout in Stamford, Connecticut from October 12 to 17. After a production at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in March 1998, a revised version was presented at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, California, in October 1998. Julie White played Beth in the South Coast Rep production.[4] The director was Daniel J. Sullivan (at South Coast Rep and Off-Broadway), with sets by Neil Patel, costumes by Jess Goldstein and lighting by Rui Rita.[5]

The Humana production was directed by Michael Bloom and featured Adam Grupper and Linda Purl as Gabe and Karen and Devore Millman and David Byron as Beth and Tom.[6]

Original Off-Broadway cast[edit]

The play was revived Off-Broadway by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theatre, running from February 2014 to April 13, 2014. Directed by Pam MacKinnon, the cast featured Heather Burns (Beth), Marin Hinkle (Karen), Darren Pettie (Tom) and Jeremy Shamos (Gabe).[7][8]

Critical response[edit]

Elyse Sommer, the CurtainUp reviewer, in writing of the original 1999 production, wrote: "Happily the author of 'Collected Stories' and 'Sight Unseen' has once again marshaled his ability to free character and situation prototypes from their cookie cutter mold familiarity. Just as happily, director Daniel Sullivan has given the script a handsome, smoothly orchestrated production and four actors who fuse Margulies' words with the finesse of a finely tuned string quartet."[9]

The reviewer of the original production for Aisle Say NY wrote: "...when it threatens to be schematic and predictable, it is anything but; and what would seem to be a light comedy about friendship and shifting loyalties, becomes instead a surprisingly touching rumination about the changes that come with age: the changes redefining relationships, the changes within relationships, the impact new relationships have on old, and the balances and affections that shift unexpectedly, just because, despite our reluctance to want to accept it, life goes on."[10]

The CurtainUp reviewer, in writing of the 2014 revival, concluded: "But for all its richly flavored dialogue and characterizations, the dinner served up at the Laura Pels doesn't resonate as quite the gourmet meal it once was. It's a well structured, insightful play but it leaves you hungry for seeing Mr. Margulies apply his considerable gifts to more currently significant themes."[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 2014 Lucille Lortel Award, Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play, Jeremy Shamos[8]

Film adaptation[edit]

The play was adapted into a 2001 TV movie starring Dennis Quaid as Gabe, Andie MacDowell as Karen, Greg Kinnear as Tom, and Toni Collette as Beth. It was nominated for two Emmys, including Outstanding Made for Television Movie.[14]


  1. ^ Dinner with Friends theatredb.com
  2. ^ "Pulitzer Prize 2000" pulitzer.org
  3. ^ Marks, Peter."Theater Review; A Menu Featuring Divorce And Fear," The New York Times, November 5, 1999 (subscription required)
  4. ^ Mermelstein, David. "Review. 'Dinner with Friends' " Variety, November 8, 1998
  5. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Margulies' 'Dinner With Friends', Serving Marriage on the Rocks, Opens OB Nov. 4" playbill.com, November 4, 1999
  6. ^ Jenkins, Jeffrey Eric. "The 22nd Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays" muse.jhu.edu (excerpt from Theatre Journal 51.1 (1999) pp.82-84), March 1999
  7. ^ Vincentelli, Elizabeth. "In 'Dinner with Friends' Beautiful People Break Up, Too" New York Post, February 14, 2014
  8. ^ a b " 'Dinner with Friends', 2014" lortel.org, accessed August 1, 2015
  9. ^ Sommer, Elyse. "CurtainUp Review. 'Dinner with Friends', 1999 curtainup.com, November 11, 1999
  10. ^ Spencer, David. Dinner with Friends aislesay.com, accessed August 2, 2015
  11. ^ Sommer, Elyse. "CurtainUp Review. 'Dinner with Friends' " curtainup.com, February 6, 2014
  12. ^ "Awards for 1999-2000" outercritics.org, accessed August 2, 2015
  13. ^ "MTC 'Wild Party', 'Kate', Stroman Lead Drama Desk Nominations" playbill.com, April 25, 2000
  14. ^ IMDB list of Awards for Dinner with Friends

External links[edit]