Blending French farce with television situation comedy, Neil Simon’s The Dinner Party comically examines the hard work and emotions of troubled marriages, combining hilarious situations with pathos. The Vagabond Players’ presentation of Simon’s last stage production features excellent acting, timing, and production work.
Six disparate guests arrive at a mysterious posh dinner party at an upscale, gourmet restaurant in Paris, slowly discovering that they are in actuality three divorced couples and former clients of a well-to-do Paris attorney. After overcoming shock, complicated emotions, and putdowns, they analyze and dissect mistakes in their own marriages, ending on a rueful but somewhat hopeful note. Like much of Simon’s work, the play features a verbal barrage of sarcastic one-liners and hilarious comebacks, but diverges into a serious examination of marriage. It’s Waiting for Godot meets Friends.
Director Lewis Hauser’s high-octane production features deft timing and fine acting as it thoughtfully contemplates the vicissitudes of relationships, while veering between slick zingers and emotional situations. He artfully weaves some intimate, touching moments into the self-conscious work.
Hauser draws excellent performances from his small cast. David Narloch adds zesty snark to pompous Claude, while Gary Cusano brings sweet befuddlement to the eager-to-please Albert. Linda Mayer’s thoughtful Mariette emotionally grounds the piece. Layne gives a pleasing, light touch to the sexy but brittle Gabrielle.
Production work captures the shallow though tasteful aspects of the piece.
The Dinner Party dishes spicy quips and bitter accusations as it dramatically underscores the emotional rollercoaster of romantic relationships.
The Vagabond Players present The Dinner Party Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through March 29 at the Sherry Theatre located at 11052 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood, midway between Lankershim Blvd. and Vineland Ave. Tickets cost $20, but there are senior, student, and group discounts. Call (818) 206-4003 for reservations.