How well do you know your friends? How well do they know you? For four buddies - Tom, Beth, Karen and Gabe - life has just thrown a curveball and now they must face their own sense of morality and loyalty in friendship.
This test of boundaries and expectations plays out in ‘Dinner With Friends’ at the Junction on November 1-2.
In the show, when Gabe and Karen discover that Tom has been having an affair and that he and Beth are separating, it strains not only their relationships with the two in question but also with each other.
Personality clashes ensue, and both Gabe and Karen hasten to perform as judge and jury in the matter of Tom versus Beth.
It’s not an unrealistic depiction of interactions, say the actors.
“I think people will see elements of themselves in all the characters depending on where they are with their lives... Karen’s moral compass and black / white view of things, Gabe’s quiet stoicism, Beth’s journey of self discovery, or Tom’s hunger for passion and new experiences,” says Hussain Hadi, who plays Tom, in Donald Margulies’ Dinner with Friends.
But when you are drawn into a field that explores human natures through assigned stereotypes, there’s a chance of the showcase turning into a caricature.
“This was something that I insisted on when we first started rehearsing for it, says Meghana Mundkur, the director and producer of the play. “Emotions and feelings, which are packed with so much ease and complexity at the same time in this script are easy to amp up when performing on stage but this play demands subtle nuances that convey the feeling, they are also (emotions and feelings) like breathing for human beings so I asked my actors to treat the emotions like that, like they're breathing. Slow, deep and easy,” she says.
Ahmar Iqbal, who plays Gabe, adds: “The character portrayals are natural and realistic, across the board.”
Priyanka Johri, who plays Karen, says: "Dinner with friends takes the bedroom drama behind closed doors, and brings it to life on stage giving you a birds eye view of the inner workings of couples and what they’re really like."
And in this setting one sees the patchwork of emotions that go into the creation and sustaining of a relationship, both with friends and family. It also posits the question - can you grow out of a relationship with someone? For Iqbal, it raises another, possibly even more pertinent query. “It’s interesting as well to think about the relationship with one's self - can you grow apart from yourself? I think you can, and in surprising ways that may hit you in ways you may never have imagined. The play forces you to examine this angle as well, which makes it all the more interesting when presented in the context of relationships with others.”
Carine Bouery, who plays the artistic, newly single Beth, says the show helped her deal with a personal loss. “I found it natural to relate to Beth. What made her character even more relatable to me was my recent breakup from a seven-year relationship, which was like a marriage.
“While that was a year back, the pain is still fresh and I can access these emotions and bring them to life for Beth on stage. It almost feels like we’re there for each other, going through the grieving process together and she shows me by the end of the play that there is always another chance for love waiting for me and for everyone for that matter,” she says.
And that’s the message - relationships are like molten gold, precious and malleable to change. You may need to redefine the links every so often.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to see ‘Dinner with Friends’ at the Junction, which has three shows - at 7.30pm on November 1 and 3.30pm and 7.30pm on November 2 - are Dh100.