Audiences for Dinner With Friends Have Eyes on the Prize; Business Booms

News   Audiences for Dinner With Friends Have Eyes on the Prize; Business Booms If solid reviews and a Lucille Lortel Award weren't incentive enough to get theatregoers into Donald Margulies' Dinner With Friends, already recognized as the Off-Broadway season's major hit, ticket buyers obviously had their eyes on the prize this week.

If solid reviews and a Lucille Lortel Award weren't incentive enough to get theatregoers into Donald Margulies' Dinner With Friends, already recognized as the Off-Broadway season's major hit, ticket buyers obviously had their eyes on the prize this week.

According to a spokesman, ticket sales were up "300 percent" following the April 10 announcement that the rueful comedy about two couples won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Producers underlined that though they are thrilled with the business surge, the show was already doing extremely well.

The cast at the Variety Arts includes Jonathan Walker, Carolyn McCormick, Matthew Arkin and Lisa Emery.

Dinner With Friends, opened Off-Broadway Nov. 4, 1999, with Arkin, Emery, Kevin Kilner and Julie White.

Margulies, the author of Collected Stories (itself a past Pulitzer nominee), created a serious comedy about a dissolving marriage and the disillusioned friends left behind. Daniel Sullivan (The Heidi Chronicles, I'm Not Rappaport) directs. The play was previously seen at Actors Theatre of Louisville and (in a revised form) South Coast Repertory Theatre. In New York, the work has been embraced as intelligent, dry and grown-up.

On April 4, the play won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play of the Off-Broadway season.

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The world premiere of the four-character, two-couple Dinner With Friends (about a pair of successful food writers, and an artist and a lawyer) was part of the 1998 Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre in Kentucky. The revised version was staged by Sullivan at South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa, CA, in October 1998.

Designers in New York are Neil Patel (set), Jess Goldstein (costumes), Rui Rita (lighting).

Dinner With Friends is produced by Mitchell Maxwell, Mark Balsam, Ted Tulchin, Victoria Maxwell, Mari Nakachi and Steven Tulchin.

The Variety Arts Theatre is at 110 Third Ave. at 13th Street. Call (212) 239-6200 for ticket information.

-- By Kenneth Jones