Dinner_smMoira Buffini, Dinner (2002)

Directed by David Barbareee
February 3-26, 2012
Fri, Sat, 8 pm, Sun 2 pm
Prospect Theater Project
Dinner is a very witty, very black comedy about the Dinner Party from Hell.  The characters are edgy, mostly London upper crust types. The bitchy society lady Paige throwing the party is celebrating her husband Lars’s latest self-centered self-help “philosophy” book. She’s invited a woman artist Wynne who put a portrait of her husband’s genitals on display at her last exhibition—he really didn’t like that and now he’s left her; scientist Hal, who does something secret with germs, and his sexy trophy wife Sian, who’s a “newsbabe” (“I decorate the rolling news”). Then there’s Mike. He shows up at the door by accident and may or may not be a cat burglar, there to case the house. And there’s a waiter, whom Paige recruited via the Internet.
From the very first scene, the zingers flow, one right after another. Lars writes of “the psychological apocalypse” which apparently frees you from having to care about any one else, something these characters are already really good at doing. Wynne has the hots for Lars and praises him for “tapp[ing] the twenty-first century zeitgeist.”  It’s non-stop trendy talk, deliberately sophisticated but beneath it just very, very funny and utterly ephemeral. Hal rhapsodizes about the fog outside the house—which is, he says, “spooky, more than spooky, uberspooky.” Paige has created a truly astonishing menu, so astonishing I don’t want to detail it ahead of time. Let me just say that you won’t want any of these recipes to take home for your own use.
And there are Games. The games are as funny and harsh and there is no forgiveness for anyone in them. It’s hard to end a play like this, which relies not on character or plot as much as on the cleverness of its language and which requires clockwork pacing, but author Buffini does a workmanlike job of bringing a truly awful meal to a close. Before you leave the table, you’ll laugh many, many times—probably snickers at first, then full out belly laughs. But if you decide to prepare any of Paige’s recipes on your own, please don’t invite me for dinner.
                                                David Keymer, for The Prospect Theater Project