Saturday, February 8th, 2014

THE trials and tribulations of marriage breakdowns come to the fore in the Old Mill Theatre’s first season of 2014.

Written by Donald Margulies and directed by Noel O’Neill, Dinner With Friends finds a husband and wife re-evaluating their marriage after their closest friends decide to split after 12 years.

Over the course of the play, the two couples are seen at different ages and stages of their lives – when Tom and Beth break up, Gabe and Karen feel compelled to choose sides and begin to question the strength of their own tranquil marriage while also seeing the real meaning behind their friendships.

In 2000, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as the American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award.

It was also adapted into a 2001 TV movie with Toni Collette, Andie MacDowell, Dennis Quaid and Greg Kinnear.

“The most intriguing aspect of the play is the fact that all relationships are tested as a result of one couple breaking up,” O’Neill said.

“It’s a wryly funny and richly layered piece of theatre that looks at the paths you choose, the millions you don’t and all the detours that make it worth the ride.

“The main challenge is getting the audience to relate to the whole situation but it’s a fair bet many will have been in similar positions, whether going through a relationship breakup or being a friend of someone going through the process.”

Born in Ireland, O’Neill moved to New York in his late teens and studied acting with Lee Strasberg and Herbert Berghof, appearing in many off-Broadway productions including One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Of Mice and Men.

Since moving to Perth 12 years ago, he has appeared on stage and directed and written numerous shows for the Old Mill and KADS Theatres, Graduate Dramatic Society and the Irish Theatre Players.

O’Neill has won numerous awards for writing, directing and currently lectures for the WA Academy of Performing Arts and Perth Actors’ Collective, also writing and directing No Bed of Roses and directing Born Yesterday at the Old Mill Theatre last year.

“The appeal of Dinner With Friends is that it’s all so bittersweetly realistic,” he said.

“It’s not just a thoughtful study on divorce but also a turbulent meditation on the minefield of middle age.

“The play exposes the same universal insecurities people face every time there are shattering changes in their lives, which makes the characters so real – it’s about them facing their fears.”

Dinner With Friends plays at 8pm, February 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28 and March 1 with a 2pm matinee February 23.

Tickets are $25, $20 concession – book at or on 9367 8719.

The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post).


DWF1: A marriage breakdown and the effect on friendships is explored in Dinner With Friends featuring Phil Barnett, left, Laila Gampfer, Michael Dornan and Maree Grayden.

DWF2: Tom (Phil Barnett) and Beth (Maree Grayden) come to blows in Dinner With Friends when they decide to get a divorce.

DWF3: Karen (Laila Gampfer, left) and Gabe (Michael Dornan) are left questioning their own tranquil marriage when their closest friends split after 12 years in Dinner With Friends.

DWF4: Director Noel O’Neill, right, takes the cast of Dinner With Friends – Phil Barnett, Laila Gampfer, Michael Dornan and Maree Grayden – through their paces.

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Old Mill Theatre

South Perth's Old Mill Theatre is fortunate to be operating out of one of the most historic buildings in South Perth. It was opened in 1899 as a Mechanics' Institute Hall. The South Perth Council purchased the building in 1913 and renamed it the Mends Street Hall. The council still owns the building, and supports our use of it.

The building first became a home of theatre in 1948, when the South Perth Dramatic Society moved in. The name Old Mill Theatre was first used in 1958, and the company was incorporated in 1959. In 2009, the theatre celebrated its 60th anniversary.

A number of significant changes to the building have occurred over the past few years, with major extensions completed in 2002. An understage tunnel, which links two backstage dressing rooms and enables easier access from one side of the stage to the other, was completed in 2008. Bathroom facilities have also been installed backstage as part of this project, which was wholly self-funded.

The Old Mill Theatre is fortunate to have strong support from its local council, the City of South Perth. The city undertook major renovations to the exterior of the building in 2008 and the theatre is looking better now than ever before.
Noel O’Neill
P: 0419 954 353


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