DIN­NER AND DIVORCE AT MONNOT THE­ATER

CAR­LOS CHAHINE’S NEW ADAP­TA­TION OF “DIN­NER WITH FRIENDS”

Executive Magazine - - EXECUTIVE LIFE - Words by Olga Habre

for Le­banon’s largely re­li­gious, fam­ily-ori­ented so­ci­ety the alarm­ing rate of divorce in the coun­try is a sen­si­tive is­sue. Whether you blame the econ­omy, so­cial pres­sures or sim­ply a global trend, there is no doubt di­vorces are oc­cur­ring more fre­quently than ever be­fore, and while divorce is still widely con­sid­ered taboo in Le­banon, this uptick has made it an in­creas­ingly prom­i­nent sub­ject for pop­u­lar dis­cus­sion. So, it’s no sur­prise that divorce has made it onto the stage, ad­dressed care­fully and com­i­cally in Car­los Chahine’s new adap­ta­tion of “Din­ner with Friends” or “KifKenelAsha,” which pre­miered at Monnot The­ater on March 23 and is con­tin­u­ing its run through April. A Le­banese take on the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning play by Don­ald Mar­gulies, which was made into a 2001 movie of the same ti­tle star­ring a quar­tet of Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters, it’s a look at a mar­ried cou­ple’s breakup from mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives.

t’s a story of love, de­sire, monogamy, delity, and friend­ship that starts with a dra­matic din­ner and an­nounce­ment of divorce. The two cou­ples in the story have been friends for years, and with each scene, the plot thick­ens and lay­ers of both cou­ples’ re­la­tion­ships are peeled away. It’s not nail-bit­ing sus­pense, but rather more the grad­ual rev­e­la­tions of the true char­ac­ter of each per­son, much like real life. As the au­di­ence sees both cou­ples in­ter­act with each other, and how their own re­la­tion­ships change with time and as a re­sult of the news, it’s clear that there are mul­ti­ple sides to ev­ery story. There isn’t a “right” so­lu­tion to is­sues in re­la­tion­ships, and mar­riages go through di er­ent kinds of nat­u­ral pro­gres­sions. lti-

“The arts are the best in­sur­ance pol­icy a city can take on it­self.” - Woody Du­mas

mately, the play doesn’t dic­tate a moral as much as it il­lus­trates vari­a­tions and evo­lu­tions in mat­ri­mony and friend­ship.

er t o months of re­hearsals the com­edy drama looks great live on stage, star­ring lo­cal tal­ents lain aadeh, of last year’s o o ice suc­cess ery Big Shot” or “FilmKtirKbir,” Ser­ena Chami, who’s star­ring in the re­cently re­leased lm “Mah­bas,” as well as Joseph Zaitouny and Sa­har As­saf. The pro­duc­tion’s pic­turesque but sim­ple sets change with each scene, with melodic Ara­bic love songs play­ing while stage­hands re­ar­range the set­ting in the dark.

What’s com­pelling about the play is it has more ques­tions than an­swers and will have you think­ing about your own life long a er you’ve le the the­ater. Its direc­tor, Chahine, who lives mostly in Paris and is also an ac­tor and lm direc­tor, was in­spired to tell the story for the rst time in Ara­bic to his ebanese au­di­ence a er read­ing the play in a ew ork li­brary four years ago, say­ing it was the right time to present “a play that can be eas­ily un­der­stood by a lot of peo­ple.” De­scrib­ing the per­for­mance, he says, “It’s the story of two cou­ples who have known each since univer­sity and spend [a lot of time] to­gether. One cou­ple de­cides to divorce, while the other can’t ac­cept the idea. It can be seen as sad, or it can be happy, the ques­tion is: What is best? What should some­one do when they’re un­happy? Stay to­gether for the chil­dren and so­ci­ety, or have the courage to start a new life?”

It’s a painful de­bate many cou­ples en­counter, but divorce de nitely de­serves a con­ver­sa­tion. Talk­ing openly about this and other taboos en­cour­ages un­der­stand­ing and sen­si­bil­ity. See­ing divorce dis­cussed on a live stage, ap­proached with light­heart­ed­ness, sin­cer­ity and seen from mul­ti­ple an­gles, may not stop di­vorces from hap­pen­ing, but it’s a great ex­am­ple of how art can con­trib­ute to en­light­en­ing so­ci­ety, al­le­vi­at­ing peo­ple’s pains and help­ing them feel­ing less alone in di icult times.

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