PICK! ASR Theater ~~ Delicious Dialog Spices “Dinner With Friends” at Sonoma Arts Live

By Cari Lynn Pace

Dinner with Friends dishes out one couple’s surprise uncoupling and its effect on another couple, their best friends. The Pulitzer-prize-winning dialog, written by Donald Margulies, has just the right amount of pepper and salt to make this Sonoma Arts Live drama quite tasty.

Kudos to the four actors, under the capable direction of veteran Carl Jordan. They are all superb on a multi-stage set designed by Jordan and Gary Gonser for the Rotary Stage at Andrews Hall in the Sonoma Community Center.

Don’t come hungry to this performance as your stomach may growl. Foodie couple Karen and Gabe (Ilana Niernberger and John Browning, respectively) serve a luscious Italian meal learned on their recent vacation. They are entertaining their best friend Beth, (Katie Kelley) while her husband is away and the couples’ kids are busy in the TV room.

Spoiler alert: The sweet taste of dessert is still on their lips when Beth breaks the news that her husband Tom is leaving her for another woman. Karen and Gabe rally around her, with generous doses of disbelief, support and wine.

…Kudos to the actors, under the direction of veteran Carl Jordan…

When Beth leaves, Karen and Gabe examine their own relationship strengths in the light of Beth’s revelation. Their cautionary and insightful banter gives all couples food for thought. Later that night, Tom (skillfully enacted by Jimmy Gagarin) shows up to confront Beth. He’s enraged that she spilled the beans to their friends. Their physical and emotional energies are portrayed with astounding power, a testament to the acting chops of these two talents.

Act II is a flashback to when Karen and Gabe eagerly introduced Beth to Tom. Tom is unsure about a commitment to marriage, yet listens to Gabe’s input. Tom marries Beth. Is it all to be as it was in Act I? The playwright has another twist in mind.

Time shifts to the present when Karen catches up to a reserved Beth. Beth admits she has found another love to replace Tom. Karen’s advice is unwelcome, as Beth now has her own cooking to do.

Dinner with Friends is a full-course production, one that SAL Artistic Director Jamie Love hopes “Will lead to some great post-show conversations with friends coupled, uncoupled, and otherwise.”

Bon Appetit!


ASR Writer & Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a voting member of SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County. Contact: pace-koch@comcast.net


ProductionDinner With Friends
Written byDonald Margulies
Directed byCarl Jordan
Producing CompanySonoma Arts Live
Production DatesJune 2-18, 2023
Production AddressRotary Stage: Andrews Hall, Sonoma Community Center
276 E. Napa Street, Sonoma
Tickets$25 – $42
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?YES!