Stars including Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks are expected to turn out for the Oct. 4 official opening of Dinner With Friends at the Geffen Playhouse on Los Angeles.
Hanks will watch wife Rita Wilson play Karen, a food writer and wife who questions her marriage when her best friends divorce. Daniel Stern ("City Slickers") plays husband Gabe, Dana Delany (TV's "China Beach") is unsure Beth, and Kevin Kilner plays Tom, who leaves Beth for another woman.
Donald Margulies' Pulitzer Prize winning work is a hit at Off-Broadway's Variety Arts Theatre. Daniel Sullivan (The Heidi Chronicles) recreates his New York staging with the same design team: Neil Patel (set), Jess Goldstein (costumes) and Rui Rita (lighting), providing the upper-middle-class milieu.
Previews began at the Geffen Sept. 26 and performances continue to Oct. 29, prior to a run at Boston's Wilbur Theatre, Nov. 4-19. The Geffen production is produced in association with the New York producers.
Delany as Beth in L.A. and Beantown is a switch from her playing stolid Karen in the Manhattan staging over the summer. Kilner recreates his Off- Broadway role of wandering Tom. Margulies' rueful comedy shows the shifting loyalties and values of two couples as one couple goes through a divorce, and all face middle-age malaise.
New York producer Mark Balsam previously told Playbill On Line that other options are being mulled for Dinner to appear on other regional plates (such as Chicago), in the form of either a tour or in sitdown commercial productions within the next year. An HBO TV film version is also being developed.
Pre-Pulitzer, the play was seen at Actors Theatre of Louisville and (in a revised form) South Coast Repertory Theatre. The world premiere 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.
At least one not-for-profit company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, in California, got the go-ahead to stage a resident version of the play in the 2000-2001 season. A previously announced resident nonprofit staging at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, IL, was scotched because of a probable commercial run in Chicagoland.
The New York producers of Dinner With Friends are Mitchell Maxwell, Mark Balsam, Ted Tulchin, Victoria Maxwell, Mari Nakachi and Steven Tulchin. Producing director of the Geffen is Gilbert Cates.
For ticket information, call the Geffen Playhouse at (310) 208- 5454. For tickets to the Boston staging at the Wilbur Theatre, call (617) 931 2787.
— By Kenneth Jones