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FairfaxOn Stage: Comedy runs a tad long, but delivers some laughs

On Stage: Comedy runs a tad long, but delivers some laughs

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What kind of a “friend” arranges a dinner party for three couples whose divorce proceedings he legally handled, then does not appear?

The kind responsible for the setup in Neil Simon’s “The Dinner Party,” Vienna Theatre Company’s latest production. The absent lawyer may have had some worthwhile aims, though, as the audience learns.

The couples in question arrive one at a time in the private dining room of a high-end Parisian restaurant. There’s Albert (Dave Wright), an affable but oblivious man who runs an auto-rental agency and paints artworks of cars.

Albert formerly was twice married to Yvonne (Ann Brodnax).

Claude (Bruce Alan Rauscher), a rare-book dealer who’s a bit more on the ball than Albert, previously was married to Mariette (Elizabeth Keith).

Andre (Charles Boone) runs men’s apparel boutiques and wows the other men by mentioning he leases an aircraft. Andre used to be married to the spunky and audaciously dressed Gabrielle (Carla Crawford) and is a bit of a snob.
“I must never judge a book by the man who dusts its cover,” he tells Claude.

As the action progresses, the former couples realize they’ve been set up and rehash some of the problems that led to their divorces. But there’s also some tenderness and regrets as they realize what might have been.

Apart from the witty opening exchanges, these are some of the play’s best moments. Crawford’s Gabrielle draws the other characters out of their shells, and they rise to the occasion, revealing tidbits that flesh out their failed relationships better.

The production, directed by Tom Flatt and produced by Eleanore Tapscott, offers plenty of playwright Simon’s usual humor, albeit in a package that runs pretty long.

The show lasts just under two hours and does not have an intermission, so hit the restrooms before the curtain opens or prepare to miss some plot elements owing to a mid-show bathroom break.

The performers, well-coiffed and made-up by Betsy Riley, look spiffy in their formal duds (except for one who didn’t get the memo).

The one-room set, designed by Nicholas Querayne and dressed by Claire Tse, is splendid. The room’s walls are painted a lovely lapis lazuli blue and imprinted with a white floral pattern. The furniture is elegant and the walls are covered with artworks and lighting sconces.

“The Dinner Party” is not exactly a laugh riot, but features pleasing interplay between the characters and gently handles the always-fraught subject of divorce.

• • •

“The Dinner Party” runs through Feb. 6 at the Vienna Community Center. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $15 and may be purchases at viennava.gov/webtrac or in person at the community center during regular operating hours.

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