In this dark comedy, five upper-middle-class friends have gathered for a dinner party. But one host’s increasingly reactionary political views lead to an unexpected act of retribution, as both the dinner and the fancy apartment grow stranger and stranger. Performed by five actors, two men and three women. Approximate running time: one hour and twenty minutes.
The Ohio Theatre, New York City, 2008
Zimmertheater, Heidelberg, Germany, 2009 (as Einladung zum Abendessen, German translation by John and Peter von Duffel)
Kleines Theater, Berlin, Germany, 2010 (as Einladung zum Abendessen, German translation by John and Peter von Duffel)
Theater Theo, Oberzeiring, Austria, 2010 (as Einladung zum Abendessen, German translation by John and Peter von Duffel)
Theater Tiefrot, Cologne, Germany, 2011 (as Einladung zum Abendessen, German translation by John and Peter von Duffel)
Frankfurt Stage and Music School, Frankfurt, Germany, 2016 (as Einladung zum Abendessen, German translation by John and Peter von Duffel)
Ah, the dinner party—reliable setting for many a sophisticated and/or scathing examination of societal mores. You know the kind of thing: elegantly dressed and coiffed folk seated on expensive-looking furniture, surrounded by beautiful objets and sipping exclusive wines from exquisite crystal, all the while engaging in snappy repartee about this and that, conversation filled with wit and undertone.
This is just what happens in Brian Parks’s The Invitation…until it isn’t. In this impassionedly vitriolic dark satire, Parks has a field day making fun of America’s cultural and social elite. And he’s not handling them with kid gloves; no, the gloves are definitely off as Parks moves in for the kill. I won’t tell you what happens to make this dinner party quite unlike any other I’ve seen depicted on stage, but it gets right to the heart of the sick cults of entitlement and greed that have made the current decade into a new Gilded Age here in America.
…The banter flies fast and furious—this is the kind of dialogue of which Parks is a master—and as it does, we discover that Dave and Marian are a sort of latter-day George and Martha (a la Albee’s Virginia Woolf). He is a bit of a failed writer, we learn, and she offers no encouragement whatsoever. He’s an intellectual and a liberal thinker; she’s a consummate consumer and as right-winged a bigot as one can imagine. She delights in deflating him at every turn, and he covers up his deflation with wordplay and esoterica and alcohol.
Well, things are bound to explode, and they do. The second half of the play is less sure-footed than the first in terms of plotting (it could probably use a bit of trimming), but it succeeds in making us pay lots of attention to Parks’s ideas, which feel subversive and dangerous and enormously important and prescient.
…The comedy here is frothy in places, and mordant and lethal in others. It’s designed to deliver jolts, to shake up its audience—and it does. Certainly its timing, two months before a very important Presidential Election, cannot be coincidental. NYTHEATRE.COM
In German-language markets, the play is handled by Per Lauke of Per Lauke Verlag, Hamburg.
Tel.: 0049 (0) 40 – 300 66 790
Fax.: 0049 (0) 40 – 300 66 789
Image credit: Word Monger