Dinner, drinks, divorce?
The small-knit cast of “Dinner with Friends” ran through lines and took the stage for their rehearsal of Pulitzer Prize winner Wednesday night.
The play explores the dynamics of friendship between two couples when one announces their divorce. In the two-act performance, spectators will navigate the relationships, conversations and food that had brought the friends together and pushed them apart.
The production directed by Keith May stars Ben Eden as Gabe, Amanda Keith as Karen, Pierce LoPachin as Tom and Andrea Robison as Beth.
Although the story appears “deceptively simple,” Eden said the audience will feel the complexity of the characters and their relationships from the start.
“Especially in act one is that feeling right when the divorce is happening, you know when it's both traumatic and exciting because there are changes afoot and there's a lot of things happening. It's something you want to talk about, but you can't talk about and all the emotions that come with that. I feel like this play just nails those feelings perfectly,” he said.
In her perspective of the play’s message, Keith said it touches on a lot of topics, but it mainly speaks on the change in relationships and friendships.
“Friendships are complicated and messy, and they don't last forever. We're kind of culturally used to seeing romantic relationships end, but we have this weird expectation that our friendships will go on forever. Sometimes, even in friendships, you outgrow and change from people,” she said.
Throughout the hours of practice from October to December, the actors not only worked to create and relate to their character, but they also worked together to create realistic-feeling relationships within their couples. They recruited an intimacy coach to help perfect their connections for on-stage.
LoPachin said he has known his stage wife for about 10 years, and the experience has been very comfortable working alongside his friend.
“I'm very lucky to be in a cast like this where we already have a relationship outside of show, but we can implement that in the show, and that chemistry is already kind of there, we just tweak it a little bit to make it exciting for the audience,” he said.
Since first working with one another, Keith and Eden knew their on-stage spouse was a talent.
“If me or Ben had questions about like the kissing and touching, the couples doing stuff, we just asked each other. Having open communication makes it easier, and he’s really talented. He's a very gentle, sweet person, and it's very easy to be with him,” Keith said.
“The first time I got to read with Amanda Keith, who ends up being my wife, I just immediately knew she was amazing at this. And so, when I found out that we were both getting the parts, I was overjoyed, and I've just stayed that way since then. She's so welcoming, and she just makes you at ease and she's so good that she makes me seem better than I am. I've just loved every second, honestly,” Eden said.
Though connections off-stage are positive, comfortable and friendly, the actors are able to “turn up” the intensity and portray characters they themselves would not act as.
“My character Tom is starved for intimacy, and he doesn’t feel as though he’s getting enough of it from his wife. He has anger issues and can come across passive aggressive at times,” LoPachin stated. “He has some issues that he has to work through, and I think its relatable as we’re all human being who have personal issues and insecurities.”
As the story plays out, the audience gets to decide for themselves who is in the right and the wrong. Keith believes the intimacy of the small cast shows the comedic and heavy topics in a digestible way.
“No one is a villain in the story. Nobody is a straightforward bad guy or good guy. They're just people,” she said.
The production of “Dinner with Friends” will be showing at the Abilene Community Theatre, 809 Barrow Street, throughout Dec. 8-10. Showings for Friday and Saturday are at 7:30 p.m. The Sunday showing is at 2 p.m. This production uses adult language and discusses adult topics, and it may be inappropriate for individuals under the age of 16.
Interested individuals can purchase tickets online at the Abilene Community Theatre website for $15-$18 or at the door for $17-$20. Military, student and senior tickets are available for purchase.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Dinner. Drinks. Divorce? Interview of Dinner with Friends cast members