January 03, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Dinner at Eight

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
performer
John Barrymore, Marie Dressler
director
George Cukor
genre
Comedy
We gave it a B-

The infrastructure of this 1932 George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber wheezer is so painfully visible you could be looking at an erector set. First act: Set up the characters. Second act: Unveil the conflicting plotlines. Third act: Deliver the humorous complications, the tragic consequences, and the tidy settling of all other associated hash. But it’s not always so bad to know what’s coming, especially when it’s in a show as capably staged, gloriously decorated (seven luxurious sets, countless ravishing costumes), and expertly acted (by vets Marian Seldes, Emily Skinner, and Joe Grifasi, among others) as this one. The Depression-proof upper classes of the 1930s have never looked so good or seemed quite this desperate. It’s a shame that it’s not a better play.

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