Omnium gatherum by Theresa Rebeck and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, directed by David Storch, with Fiona Reid, Sam Kalilieh, Hardee T. Lineham, James MacDonald, Brenda Robins, Ashley Wright, Andrea Scott and Nigel Shawn Williams. Presented by CanStage at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). Runs to November 20, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm, Saturday 2 pm. $26-$51. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The best dinner parties serve up good food and drink, a few strong opinions, a colourful crowd and some choice jokes or bits of gossip.
It's all served up in style (we don't partake of the food or drink, though) in Omnium Gatherum , Theresa Rebeck and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros 's provocative show about a dinner party set sometime after the 9/11 disaster in New York.
Suzie ( Fiona Reid ), a Martha Stewart-like hostess, presides over a sparkling table that includes everyone from a right-wing novelist ( Hardee T. Lineham ) and a feminist vegan ( Brenda Robins ) to an Arabic scholar ( Nigel Shawn Williams ) and the table's "hero," one of the disaster's courageous firefighters ( Ashley Wright ).
As the plates and glasses get passed and refilled, so, too, do the themes change hands. The situation in the Middle East, arts funding, book critics, Star Trek - everything is grist for the conversational mill. And we always come back to Suzie's high-maintenance food and drink tips, which are good for a quick laugh.
Director David Storch knows how to get his actors to deliver clever one-liners, and he underscores the many ideological showdowns, especially between Lineham's and Robins's characters, who fittingly are placed across from each other on designer Bretta Gerecke 's round table, which circles slowly so we're drawn into the multiple discussions and points of view.
Storch is less good at bringing out the more meditative moments that need time to sink in.
Not that there's a lot of character development. These people are types, and some of the actors - Robins, Lineham, James MacDonald as a pompous drunk and Williams - are better than others at making them breathe.
Maybe that's a problem with the play's conceit. You don't go to a dinner party expecting glimpses into the human condition. But you can still find that at the best theatre.