Being witness to incorrigible, utter dysfunction in social situations: it’s like watching a trainwreck – you know you ought to look away, but you can’t. Perhaps it’s because we’re attracted to dynamic situations and dramatic encounters. It also has to do with the fact that public confrontations are an anomaly. No matter the magnitude of the situation, we seem to, as a society, have a collective agreement: don’t air your dirty laundry out in the open, lest you make others uncomfortable. From a safe distance, the emotional catastrophe unfolding awkwardly in public is nothing less than a theatrical performance. Too close – and it’s an uncomfortable encounter.
Dinner unapologetically steers into the skid. Throughout its duration, you’re given a hilarious, witty, and biting master class on the worst social situations imaginable. The intimate black-box setting of Players’ Theatre, the clean simplicity of the set – it amplifies every low-key glare, and underlines every awkward comment. What’s more, the socially uncomfortable situations Dinner presents to us make us question our own social norms, our boundaries, and our levels of comfort.
As the title suggests, the entirety of the play is situated during a dinner party. The toast of the night is Lars (played by Alastair Pitts), a tall, brooding, and handsome protagonist who has just written a successful self-help book called Beyond Belief – a rip-off of the best of Nietzsche’s ideas. The plot is driven by his posh, fussy wife Paige (portrayed by Georgia Pearson), serving as the cold hostess. The dinner guests include the frazzled, bubbly artist Wynne (Eléonore Lamothe), the socially inept scientist Hal (Guillaume Doussin), and his vampy journalist/‘news babe’ wife Sian (Sarah Foulkes). They are later joined by an uninvited, painfully lower-middle class guest, Mike (Victor Privé), whose truck has just crashed into a nearby ditch. In Dinner, this band of neurotic well-to-dos, accompanied by an eerily mime-like waiter (Campbell McClintock), embark on an existential journey.
As the dinner party continues, the meals get increasingly ridiculous, and the dinner guests start getting drunker. As the absurdity escalates, the play (in between acidic zingers and passive aggression) asks deep and probing questions. Dinner uses dark humour to subtly challenge your beliefs. It’s the kind of play that makes you question everything you believe to be important about your life. It challenges the notions of success, and shows just how empty life can be, even with prosperity. Dinner inserts some well-needed discomfort – and perspective – into your February midterm blues.
Players’ Theatre’s Dinner runs from Feb. 17–20 at 8:00 p.m. in Players’ Theatre (3480 Rue McTavish). Tickets are $10 for adults, and $6 for students.