With all the good things in Dinner With Friends, I felt one minor disappointment: once again, we're presented with a play populated by the same kind of characters-educated, affluent, articulate-who dominate so many new plays at major theaters these days. No, you don't have to live with an incontinent grandmother in a Stanton trailer park in order to lay claim to true pain and desperation, but there's a whole world of experience seemingly unknown to the world of educated, affluent and articulate playwrights. Instead of that world, we retreat inward, recycling the pain of the upwardly mobile over and over again on the stage. Margulies has proven himself adept at writing the intimate contemporary play about life-challenged urban intellectuals; I'd daresay he and Richard Greenberg are the best playwrights currently working in that milieu. But until he stretches his canvas and approaches something different, tackles characters he doesn't know so well, and forces himself into undiscovered territory, I fear his plays will continue to feel like this one: well-polished, well-oiled and well-manufactured, but without so much as a glimpse of a Stanton.
Dinner With Friends at South Coast Repertory Theatre's Mainstage, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Through Nov. 22. $18-$45.