Dinner with Friends plot summary, character breakdowns, context and analysis, and performance video clips. FURTHER READING. Donald Margulies’ play Dinner with Friends was written, he says, like all his works, “to reflect observations I’m having at that time in my life. Dinner With Friends. by Donald Margulies. “Dinner with Friends is a thought provoking bitter-sweet drama.” Stage Review. “Donald Margulies is an.

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All around us, relationships are changing, marriages are breaking up. Init won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for drama. Currently, there continue to be simultaneous productions all over the country, margulues a made-for-television movie is in the making. So just what is so appealing about friendx notion of impermanence and the yearning for something else dknner makes this play so universally popular?

Everyone relates to these themes. On the contrary, they are nodding their heads in agreement and laughing in recognition. Whether members of the audience can relate to the forty-something couples who come of dinnr in the radical seventies, become parents under the Reagan administration, and then either solidify or dniner touch with their long-term relationships, the play exposes the same, universal insecurities that people face every time there are shattering changes in their lives.

They are family, friends, and the people next door. They are people facing their fears. Donald Margulies was born in Brooklyn, New Yorkfriensd His father, who sold wallpaper in Brooklyn for a living, loved plays and movies and took his family to Broadway shows almost religiously. Margulies saw his first Broadway play at the age of nine.

For a time he supported himself as a graphic designer and a comedy writer before turning his full attention to play writing. Margulies wrote several plays, which were all produced but with little fanfare. He was contemplating giving up play writing right before his play Sight Unseen became a surprise hit of the season. This same play, about an artist who struggles to let go of his past, went on to win an Obie Award for the best new American play as well as to become a Pulitzer Prize finalist in It was also chosen as a Pulitzer Prize finalist in Although he did not win the prize for Collected Stories, three years later inhis play Dinner with Friends did finally win Margulies the Pulitzer.

In the opening scene of Dinner with Friends, Gabe and Karen have cooked a splendid dinner and dessert for their friends, Beth and Tom. From upstairs come the noises of four children, who are watching a video while the adults talk downstairs.

Gabe and Karen have recently come back from a vacation in Italy. Margulues love cooking, and so they describe their trip to Beth in terms of wiith.

Beth is noticeably distracted but grunts frkends so her friends margulifs think that she is interested. When Karen, feeling insecure, finally notices that Beth is distracted, she concludes that something must have been wrong with the dinner.


Beth assures Karen that the dinner was wonderful. So Karen returns to thinking about her trip, making a couple of side comments to release her guilt about traveling without her children. She also feels a little guilty about having gone on the trip without Beth. Minutes later, Beth breaks down in tears and confesses that her husband, Tom, has left her.

Awkward phrases fly out of the mouths of Karen and Gabe. Tom is the bad guy. She threatens to change the locks.

dohald She feels that Tom has no right to just walk in anymore. After a few words, he can tell that Beth told them about their breakup. Now Tom is angry. He wanted to be there. He wanted to tell them his side of the story. He knows that Beth has slanted the story in her favor.

Tom demands that Beth tell him all the details. He is sincerely concerned.

Dinner with Friends

He is afraid that Beth has turned his friends against him. Both tempers are hot now. They both bring up details from the past, hurling indignities at one another. A synopsis of their history is brought forth, and when Tom steps over a personal boundary, Beth slaps him. Karen and Gabe are absorbed in the aftermath of learning that their margulkes friends have separated. They are not sure what to make of it.

How will this mxrgulies them? Karen is the most bitter. She has turned Tom into the villain and Beth into the victim. But Karen is thinking not just of Woth and Tom. She is thinking about what it would be like if Gabe left her. No moments of weakness. One mistake and it is over. Tom has driven over in a snowstorm to make sure that he has not lost his friends.

Karen finds it impossible to be civil to Mwrgulies. Gabe finds it impossible not to try to save him. In the end, Tom leaves, unable to explain himself, unable to gain a sense of empathy and understanding from either of his friends. This is a flashback scene to over twelve years prior to the first act.

Gabe and Karen are newly weds. They have invited both Tom and Beth to stay with them. This is also the only scene in which all four characters appear together. Karen seems to have been the instigator in arranging this meeting between Tom and Beth. Gabe is neutral about donalf idea. When Beth and Tom finally come face to face, Beth is aloof and sarcastic.

Dinner With Friends by Donald Margulies

Tom is a bit rude. I guess you just want us to be as happy as you are, huh?

A discussion ensues of how wonderful marriage is. Beth and Tom quite easily get drawn into the lure of what the settled comforts of marriage could bring. They use Karen and Gabe as role models and hope that they too can fit into the same mold. This scene, of course, contrasts with the opening scenes, where everything about this ill-fated union between Beth and Tom has fallen apart. Back to the present, but five dinnef have passed since Beth and Tom have split up.


Karen and Beth have not seen each other for a while. Beth is still playing for sympathy, as she complains about how awful Tom is as an absent father.

These changes are hard for Karen to accept. It is in this scene that Beth tells Karen that she could not be like Karen.

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Tom and Gabe meet in a bar. Tom looks fit and energized. Gabe thinks Tom has stepped off the path and needs to be brought back in. Tom, on the other hand, thinks that Gabe is in denial, and that Gabe needs prompting to make a similar move to get out of his marriage.

He grew up with parents who stayed together not because they were in love, but because they wanted to keep up the appearance that they were a happy family. For the sake of the children was a popular phrase that referred to the fact that a married couple would stay together, even withh they were miserable, because they thought it was best for their children.

Gabe represents the other side of the issue. Gabe believes that all Tom has to do is exert more effort in order to save his marriage. The men end this scene, knowing that neither has convinced the other of his point of view. Gabe and Karen are at home, getting ready for bed. They discuss their separate meetings with Tom and Beth, comparing notes on what each has learned. This fact makes Beth appear less a victim donalr Karen marguloes first imagined.

It is the meaning of long-term relationships. What are the benefits of staying married to one person for so long? How do people keep long-term relationships alive? How do they rejuvenate themselves without finding new lovers, frirnds identities?

Karen relates a dream she had in which she saw a split between who she and Gabe were when they were first married and who they have become since then. Gabe first reacts to the dream by thinking that the younger, more invigorated couple might have been Beth and Tom. But Karen denies this.

Gabe is reluctant to talk about her dream and what wirh means, but Karen insists. She wants to find a bridge back to that couple, back to their original and spontaneous feelings for one another.

Dinner With Friends: Donald Margulies, Donald Margulies: : Books

The game makes them both laugh. She is an artist of questionable talent. She is also the antithesis of Karen. As a couple, she and her husband, Tom, stand as models directly opposed to the couple represented by Gabe and Karen.