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Review: MUTUAL PHILANTHROPY at NJ Rep is Timely and Thought-Provoking

"You have us as friends so you can go slumming without being there."

by Esther in Mutual Philanthropy

Mutual Philanthropy, written by Karen Rizzo and directed by Evan Bergman, is now making its East Coast Premiere at New Jersey Repertory Company through November 19. It is the 123rd play that has been produced by the company in their 20 seasons in Long Branch. This distinctive show depicts how socioeconomic circumstances can divide people living in the same community.

Mutual Philanthropy is set in a lavish home in Mount Washington, Los Angeles where Charles and Michelle are hosting a cozy dinner party for another married couple, Lee and Esther. The group appears to have a lot in common including their political ideas and children of the same age, but the lifestyles of the two pairs are quite different. Charles is a successful financial investor married to Michelle, a socialite type, while Lee, a struggling artist, depends on his wife Esther to support the family. After a few drinks, each member of the friendly foursome becomes less inhibited, and less polite. The gathering takes on a new tone as honesty prevails, resentments surface, and unexpected propositions are made. With humor and drama, Mutual Philanthropy conveys thought-provoking messages about class, background, and wealth.

You'll easily recognize the characters portrayed in Mutual Philanthropy. They could be your neighbors, your friends or your relatives. The company includes Joseph Carlson as Lee, Laurel Casillo as Michelle, Vivia Font as Esther, and James MacDonald as Charles. The four actors deliver the quick banter seamlessly and are completely authentic in each of their roles.

The Production Team has brought the show to life on the Long Branch stage with scenic design by Jessica Parks; lighting design by Jill Nagle; sound design by Merek Royce Press; costume design by Patricia E. Doherty. The Assistant Director is Jared Michael Delaney; Stage Manager, Kristin Pfeifer; Assistant Stage Manager, Adam von Pier; Technical Director, Brian P. Snyder; Properties, Marisa Procopio; Casting, Judy Bowman Casting.

Mutual Philanthropy takes the dinner party scenario to a whole new level. It is a timely play that compares and contrasts personal values. NJ Rep's Executive Producer, Gabor Barabas and Artistic Director, Suzanne Barabas are continuing their successful season by making this new show available to New Jersey audiences.

Mutual Philanthropy will be performed at New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch through November 19. The show runs for 90 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm; and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are available by calling 732-229-3166 or online at

Photo Credit: Suzanne Barabas

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