BWW Review: 4615 Theatre Company Serves Up a Satisfying DINNER

BWW Review: 4615 Theatre Company Serves Up a Satisfying DINNER
Alani Kravitz as Paige in Dinner.
Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

Whatever happened to the theatrical thriller? There's something so incredibly fulfilling about a play that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Too often, there are elements that can pull you out of a thrilling production. It can be the smallest thing: from a flickering stage light to a fumbling actor. Thankfully for 4615 Theatre Company, their production of Dinner by Moira Buffini is devoid of any major downfalls. Instead, the play comes together to create a sumptuous treat that will leave you wanting more.

Although Buffini is credited as a founder for the modern British theatre movement of Monsterism (which seeks to create contemporary epic plays), her play, Dinner, is far more simplistic. Wealthy socialite Paige Janssen (Alani Kravitz) and her husband, Lars (Matthew Castleman), are throwing a dinner party for their upper crust friends. The tensions between Paige, Lars and their guests quickly bubbles to the surface: Wynne (Charlene V. Smith) seems a little too taken with Lars's newly published book, Hal (Joshua Simon) gets too jumpy at the mention of Paige's friend who was also his former flame, and Hal's wife Sian (Morgan Sendek) seems too eager to veer discussions into morbid territory. Add in a silent waiter (Brendan McMahon) and an uninvited guest from the side of the road (Jared H. Graham) and the recipe for a tense evening is complete.

BWW Review: 4615 Theatre Company Serves Up a Satisfying DINNER
Morgan Sendek as Sian and Jared H. Graham as Mike in Dinner.
Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

There are too many twists and turns to explain more of the plot without risk of giving away any surprises. It should be noted, however, that the payoff is worth it. Each twist helps to build more to the evening's surprising climax and leave a satisfying aftertaste for the performance. Director Stevie Zimmerman has smartly limited movement and action and instead keeps the actors around the central dinner table for the majority of the show. Such a decision allows the script (which is quite strong) to stand on its own merit without needless distraction.

The one welcome distraction for Dinner comes in the form of Ms. Kravitz, who steals the show from the moment she steps onstage. It doesn't hurt that her de facto catchphrase ("we need drinks") helps cut the tension at even the most suspenseful times. Paige is a no-nonsense woman who must control every aspect of her life. Ms. Kravitz oozes this energy constantly regardless of whether she is shutting down the eccentric Wynne or chiding her nihilistic husband. Everyone in the ensemble delivers a strong performance but each falls prey to the carnivorous Ms. Kravitz one by one. She chews the scenery as if it were the very dinner promised in the title.

Benjamin Weigel provides dutiful, character-driven costume design. The most notable selection is Ms. Smith's mismatched bohemian outfit which perfectly compliments Wynne's odd personality. Despite working with only one location, Dylan Uremovich lends a skillful touch to the production's lighting, varying moods just enough from beat to beat to build on the dramatic tension. Artistic Director Jordan Friend takes on sound design for Dinner and makes some strong choices which help to heighten the intensity of the production.

BWW Review: 4615 Theatre Company Serves Up a Satisfying DINNER
Joshua Simon as Hal, Alani Kravitz as Paige, Jared H. Graham as Mike, Brendan McMahon as the Waiter, Matthew Castleman as Lars, and Charlene V. Smith as Wynne in Dinner.
Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

Brian Gillick might have the trickiest job of the technical team in designing an elaborate and lavish dinner in the intimate space of Silver Spring's Highwood Theatre. The initial setup is strong but as the waiter fills the table with more and more items throughout the evening, the table can become overcrowded. Oftentimes, it feels like the pieces are just a tad too large for the table which can break the illusion of this highbrow dinner party. It's important to remember that 4615 Theatre Company is a new, and still growing, organization without resources that match larger D.C.-area theaters. When the rest of the production is so strong, however, it becomes easy to fixate on small issues like a crowded table.

After all is said and done, Dinner makes a strong case for 4615 Theatre Company's existence. This intimate production in their intimate space gives a glimpse at the natural talent that can be found on their stages. Thanks to a particularly stellar cast, Moira Buffini's play reaches some incredible heights. Making room for Dinner is one of the best decisions you can make this August.

4615 Theatre Company's production of Moira Buffini's Dinner is playing in repertory with Macbeth through August 25 at the Highwood Theatre in Silver Spring, MD. For further information, or to purchase tickets, click here.

BWW Review: 4615 Theatre Company Serves Up a Satisfying DINNER

Sam Abney is a Washington, D.C. based arts professional. A native of Arizona, he has happily made D.C. his new home. Sam is a graduate from George Mason University with a degree in Communication and currently works for Arena Stage as a member of their Development team. He is a life-long lover of theater and is excited about sharing his passion with as many people as possible.

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