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STAGE REVIEW : LITTLE PLAY WITH ‘DINNER AND DRINKS’

Times Theater Writer

“Dinner and Drinks” at the Tiffany is all glamour.

There’s a glamorous set (especially well conceived by designer Renee M. Hoss); glamorous costumes (the women’s anyway, designed by Marjorie Bowers, courtesy of PETALS); glamorous women (Pamela Susan Shoop, Barbra Rae); sharp lightning and sound design (Steven D. Cuden and Jon Gottlieb, respectively) and spiffy black-and-white furniture (by Milton Jurado) to match the black-and-white costumes.

But where’s the play?

You’ll find several disembodied parts of one on stage. Within the framework of your stylish 1930s drawing-room whodunit (which automatically precludes revealing much here about plot), playwright Kermit Christman has come up with more clever phrases and striking moments than real ways to connect them.

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After a while, the structural inventions become obvious. At most, “Dinner and Drinks” is the tantalizing beginning of a play that has yet to be ended. Its exchanges of real or imaginary true confessions in a faintly Art Deco Manhattan penthouse have a certain Noel Coward bite without the wit. They add up to a major fizzle.

The luxuriant presentation by the designers and the five able actors (Rae, Shoop, William Katt, William H. Bassett and director Monte Markham, as the least-seen, most-talked-about character in “Dinner and Drinks”) is expensive wrapping for an ultimately empty box. Style or no style, it’s a cheat.

What Christman has wrought is the first draft of a piece that needed a good dramaturge more than it needed such a lavish production. One does not wish take away from the devotion of the producers (the Morgan Lee Company) or the accomplishments of the artists, but the effort remains fundamentally misguided--rather like paying a very large tab for a very small meal. Is that all there is?

That’s all there is.

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Performances at the Tiffany’s South Stage, 8532 Sunset Blvd., Thursdays through Saturdays, 8:30 p.m., Sundays at 7:30 p.m. until July 6; (213) 851-3771.


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