MAT brings marriage and divorce to the stage

MAT brings marriage and divorce to the stage

Jay Pyette

January 5, 2018, by Paul Dragu, Havre Daily News

Four friends, two couples – one of whom is getting divorced – discuss love, marriage and life, on stage. The Montana Actors’ Theatre debut of Donald Margulies’ Pulitzer-prize winning “Dinner with Friends” is a week from today.

The play is more than fiction – it’s therapy, the actors and director Rachel Dean said Wednesday.

“This is truth, this is life,” Dean said. “This show helps you connect and say, ‘I’m not alone. There are other people who understand how this feels, who have been through this scenario.'”

The story is about a couple who evaluates their life and relationship after their friends, another couple, reveal they are getting a divorce during a get together.

This is the fifth or sixth try at getting “Dinner with Friends” on MAT’s season showlist, Dean and Artistic Director Jay Pyette said. Pyette also acts in this one. He plays Gabe, one-half of the couple who is staying together.

The trick is to have a balanced season of shows, Dean said.

“So it seemed every time I would submit this show, there was just something else that fit better in our season. But this, for whatever reason, this was our year,” Dean said.

Dean, who’s no rookie director, said, despite the perks of directing a four-person cast, the play has its own challenges.

“The intensity of this show is every bit as challenging as ‘Mary Poppins’ ever was,” Dean said. “We spent a lot of time in rehearsals asking, ‘Why? Why is this happening? Why did you say that? Why did you say it like that? Why do you suppose this line is there? What is this character trying to accomplish? Who’s got the power in this scene?’ It’s honestly been almost a psychological journey that we’ve taken.”

When asked about their characters, all the actors were able to articulate the essence of who they were portraying.

“He appeals to me. We’re alike,” Pyette said. “Gabe’s world needs to be ordered, and so does mine. I identify with that very strongly.”

Mark Cichosz plays Tom, the man going through the divorce.

“Tom has a lot of things in common with me. I went through a divorce. There was a lot of things that were parallel with what I went through. There’s an argument scene. I remember those arguments,” Sichosz said.

Angela Murri plays Beth, the soon-to-be ex-wife. Murri said she wanted to be involved in the play because everyone, including her, had been through a divorce. The rest of the cast, and Pyette, all nodded in agreement. They’ve all been divorced.

“There’s a lot of authenticity that’s poured into this role,” Murri said. “I’m coming three years from divorce, so it’s still pretty fresh.

“You do realize,” she said, “These are just complicated people. It doesn’t mean they’re good or bad – it’s just that didn’t work. And you do realize it also affects a great deal of more people than you think.”

Tricia Williams Ferry plays Gabe’s wife, Karen, the other half of the couple who is staying together.

“When she gets news that her lifelong friends are getting divorced, it really shakes her. She thought she knew these people,” Ferry said. “She recognizes some of the complaints in her own marriage, and starts to think ‘Maybe I’m not in this solid place that I thought I was.'”

When Gabe and Karen discuss their own marriage, it’s something that rings true and personal, Ferry said.

“I absolutely know what that’s about. I remember that, the choice of do you stick it out or do you break for freedom, or what you think is freedom? What do you do?”

Director of the upcoming play, “Dinner with Friends,” Rachel Dean poses for a photo Wednesday.

And that, Pyette said, is a critical part of the story that cannot be overlooked.

“We can’t miss the other aspect as well. There is a couple in this play that’s not getting divorced.”

Pyette’s comment prompted Dean to talk about her experience as a college student reading and studying play after play, and wondering, “Does anyone write a show about marriages that stay together? I mean that’s tough, too.”

“The couple who stays together realize there is no safety net, there’s no guarantees, and if you want it you’re going to have to fight for it and work for it,” Dean said. “And I think all of us cling to that message, too. There is hope as well, as long as you’re willing to hold on to it and cherish it.

“It’s a beautiful story,” she added.

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