10 Times Drama Erupted at the Dinner Table on Broadway

Special Features   10 Times Drama Erupted at the Dinner Table on Broadway
 
Worried about drama at your holiday table? Don’t worry, your plans have nothing on these epic family dinners.

The holidays are here, and with them come large family gatherings—and large family dinners. There's no place like the dinner table for old grudges or new arguments or simply good old craziness to surface, and Broadway has been home to some of the most epic family meals ever seen.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

A_Gentleman’s_Guide_to_Love_&_Murder_Tour_2017_GGLAM - 1_HR.jpg
James Taylor Odom, Blake Price, and cast Joan Marcus

Dinner is bound to be a little awkward when you've killed off seven relatives of the host and are planning to dispatch of him with the poison in your pocket. This is exactly what happens in a deliciously funny scene in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. Throw in two sparring spouses and find yourself seated between your fiancée and your married mistress, and the night is sure to be eventful.

August: Osage County

A scene from <i>August: Osage County</i>.
A scene from August: Osage County. Michael Brosilow

Tracy Letts' drama features a family dinner following the funeral of the family's patriarch, hosted by their drug-addled matriarch. With secrets spilled and insults launched, the meal escalates into one of the most famous confrontations in contemporary theatre. (So much so that Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts were drawn to star in the film adaptation of the play.)

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Andy Karl, Gregg Edelman, Jessie Mueller, and Betsy Wolfe in <i>The Mystery of Edwin Drood</i>
Andy Karl, Gregg Edelman, Jessie Mueller, and Betsy Wolfe in The Mystery of Edwin Drood Joan Marcus

“Which one of you will cave?" has never sounded so ominous; neither has "The goose is cooked!" during a tension-filled Christmas dinner in Rupert Holmes' musical based on Charles Dickens' unfinished murder mystery novel. Each guest is protecting skeletons in their closets and suspicions about each other, and, as they sing, "No good can come from bad."

The Boys in the Band

The_Boys_In_the_Band_Broaway_Production_Photo_2018_041 The cast of THE BOYS IN THE BAND, Photo by Joan Marcus, 2018_HR.jpg
Cast Joan Marcus

Though not around a table, the recent Broadway revival of Mar Crowley’s revolutionary play is about as vicious as dinner parties get. On the occasion of Harold’s birthday, Michael is hosting in his jewel-box apartment, but things devolve quickly when Michael begins a telephone game eliciting old feelings of shame and resentment.

Festen

<i>Festen</i>
Festen

Be careful whom you ask to toast you at family gatherings. David Eldridge's stage adaptation of the Danish film of the same name follows a 60th birthday celebration of a wealthy patriarch, attended by his large family. The party takes a turn for the worse when his grown son gives a "truth speech" revealing he was sexually abused by his father as a child.

The Addams Family

Original Broadway cast of The Addams Family (l-r): Adam Riegler, Jackie Hoffman, Bebe Neuwirth, Nathan Lane, Kevin Chamberlin, Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary James.
Original Broadway cast of The Addams Family (l-r): Adam Riegler, Jackie Hoffman, Bebe Neuwirth, Nathan Lane, Kevin Chamberlin, Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary James. Joan Marcus

"Full disclosure" is never a good game to play at a family dinner, especially when introducing two families that will soon be in-laws. The members of the Addams Family do just that, revealing scandalous secrets from both families, including unhappy marriages and secret love affairs. The result is one chaotic night. 

You Can't Take It With You

James Earl Jones, Kristine Nielsen, Fran Kranz, Reg Rogers, Annaleigh Ashford, Patrick Kerr, and Mark Linn-Baker in <i>You Can&#39;t Take It With You</i>
James Earl Jones, Kristine Nielsen, Fran Kranz, Reg Rogers, Annaleigh Ashford, Patrick Kerr, and Mark Linn-Baker in You Can't Take It With You Joan Marcus

The original game-with-in-laws-gone-wrong play, this dinner results in fireworks — literally — as the two families of young lovers Alice and Tony realize how different they are. Tony's family is old-fashioned and proper, while Alice's eccentric relatives don't believe in paying taxes or organized religion, but do believe in freedom of speech and explosives, amongst other things.

Dinner at Eight

Pamela Tiffin, June Havoc, and Jeffrey Lynn in <i>Dinner at Eight</i>
Pamela Tiffin, June Havoc, and Jeffrey Lynn in Dinner at Eight Photo by Friedman-Abeles

This Depression-era play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber features a group of people whose lives are entwined in complicated tangles and financial hardships. All of them are cheating on, lying to or stealing from each other — and also hoping others can help solve their problems. Throw in some sharp-eyed servants with their own ulterior motives, and you have a dinner party that is anything but peaceful.

Absurd Person Singular

Sam Robards and Mireille Enos in <i>Absurd Person Singular</i>.
Sam Robards and Mireille Enos in Absurd Person Singular. Photo by Joan Marcus

Alan Ayckbourn's play about martial despair and yuletide depression takes place on three successive Christmas Eves, set in the kitchen of one of the three couples' holiday parties. Divorce, breakups, suicide attempts and bankruptcy fill the night instead of mistletoe and holly.

A Little Night Music

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Cast Paul Tate DePoo III

"A weekend in the country" becomes quite eventful when a complicated group of lovers picnics on the lawn, each having brought his or her own desires and suspicions to the dinner. In fact, each plans to seduce, leave or extract revenge on another. The lovers try to keep "control while falling apart," but soon learn that "perpetual anticipation is good for the soul but bad for the heart."

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