Penned by British playright, Moira Buffini, The Rep's production of Dinner is masterfully directed by Dave Simms.
The audience is forewarned of "frequent coarse language". In truth we found the language quite tolerable and it didn't detract from the core dialogue – in fact it often enhanced it, particularly to convey the exasperation of particular characters (Hal comes to mind).
Buffini has created a brilliant and meaningful piece of dark comedy satire. Drawing on the impact of the tragedy of 9/11, Buffini delves into the human psyche, what it is to live, what it is to die and more interestingly, what motivates each character.
Dinner is set on a dark and foggy night at the isolated English country estate of White Lodge on Oak Avenue. Paige (Helen Geoffreys) and her husband, Lars (Peter Davies) prepare to host an intimate dinner to celebrate the success of Lars' philosophical written masterpiece "Beyond Belief".
From the acerbic wit of hostess, Paige to the refreshingly open and (eventually) honest van driver, Mike (Alan Fitzpatrick) – the audience bears witness to the peeling and unravelling of Paige's plot to create the dinner party from hell which gets off to a stilted start when Wynne (Nicole Rutty) arrives as the first and somewhat dishevelled and heartbroken guest.
The remaining invited guests are disillusioned microbiologist Hal (Steve Marvanek) and his second wife, Siân (Olivia Eblen) who is a popular news reader (derogatorily referred to as a "News babe" by Hal).
For starters, it's the live "Primordial Soup" which Paige has carefully cultured over 3 weeks in her sun bed! Then the uninvited/unintentional guest, Mike who creates great speculation and havoc.
Interval is timed with the arrival of the mains and Paige's pièce de résistance, live lobster. This is the catalyst for the events that follow, with Paige cruelly goading each guest to decide the fate of their lobsters (the options being "lobster apocalypse":- plunging the lobster into a pot of boiling water to be cooked then devoured or "salvation":- setting the lobster free, into White Lodge's pond of briny water to live another day…)
On return from interval, the scene resumes with an effective flash back effect. By now, the tension in the dining room, especially between Lars and Paige is utterly palpable. Not to be messed with is Wynne who is noticeably under Paige's radar.
After mains, Paige ups the ante a notch with a game, which serves to ensure each guest's weaknesses and vulnerabilities are targeted and self destruct mode's well and truly turned on.
The silent player in this farce is the waiter (Geoff Dawes), a constant presence at Paige's side - so he should be, for $25,000!
Dinner is not complete without dessert and Paige spares nothing, not even the kitchen waste, hence the dessert "Frozen Waste" ("quite delicious" according to Mike).
Dinner first earned acclaim for Moira Buffini in London's West End in 2003, where it was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Comedy.
Dave Simms has assembled a strong and professional cast, with standout performances from Helen Geoffreys and Nicole Rutty. I particularly enjoyed Alan Fitzpatrick's Irish accent (he is in fact Irish – to be sure, to be sure)!