BWW Review: THE DINNER PARTY at The Orange Players- Where Comedy is the Main Course!
I had the pleasure of seeing Neil Simon's THE DINNER PARTY at the High Plains Community Center presented by The Orange Players. Dinner parties where you don't know anybody can be awkward, but how about being blindsided by seeing an ex-spouse there? Three divorced couples are put in a private dining room in an unexpected, somewhat out of the blue dinner party. Hilarity ensues as the couples see each other, for some the first time in years, and they try to figure out why they are there and where is this mutual friend who invited them. Fabulously directed by Chelsea Dacey, this clever comedy was a joy to all.
From the moment you walk in the door, you were instantly immersed into the world of the play with live pre-show music and cabaret style seating. A fun blend between reality and the world of the play was created when the ensemble actors playing waitstaff (Cyndi Consoli and Leland Schick) doubled as ushers before the show.
The chemistry of the actors was truly impeccable. Each estranged couple had clear connections and fully developed relationships. Both halves of each couple struggled to be the one in control. Each performance was unique and supportive of the others on stage. No one stole focus, yet it was always interesting to watch. Some reviews call out stand out performances, but this cast was just so in sync that everyone had their moment in the sun to stand out. The chemistry and support of the cast was so compelling, it was easy to truly care about each individual on stage.
Claude (Hugh Tucker) and Mariette (Taryn Chorney) shared the struggle not only of former spouses, but competing writers as well. If these divorced couples represented a spectrum, these two would be toward the calmer end of the spectrum. Yes, they were unhappy in each other's company, but they weren't the messiest divorce to grace that stage. That being said, they were anything but boring to watch. As the least extreme onstage, both Tucker and Chorney displayed grace under fire as events unfolded around them.
Albert (Kristopher Bates) and Yvonne (Lisa DeAngelis) had such a dynamic about them. The contrast in how they handle conflict was such a complementary feature of their story. In their first confrontation, the power of Bate's silence perfectly plays off of the frantic explaining displayed by DeAngelis. Playing more in the middle of the already mentioned spectrum, Bates's awkward charm complemented DeAngelis's doe-eyed innocence.
On the extreme end of the spectrum, we have Andre and Gabrielle, expertly played by Alexander Borghetti Ferreira and Rebecca Miller respectively. The excellent dialect work displayed by Ferreira is the icing on the cake to his confident performance, which should be noted that this was his debut theatrical performance. His performance complemented the manipulative and well intentioned, yet misguided caricature that Miller portrayed. This power struggle was perfectly clear with Miller's character wanting the power and Ferreira's character just wanting to be out of her life.
This production as a whole had it all. The comedy was clever and very smart. It was comical while not being too over the top. This was an enjoyable Neil Simon classic and you immediately cared about each individual on that stage. Keep an eye out for their One Act Festival in this Fall.
Photo Credit: Kevin McNair