It's definitely worthwhile to see Dinner With Friends a second time, because Margulies and director Daniel Sullivan have allowed the replacements to put their stamp on each role. Walker is much more sympathetic than Kevin Kilner as the cuckolding husband; Delany brings warmth and humanity to a role that seemed more judgmental in Lisa Emery's performance. The entire play draws far more laughs than it did on opening night.
Seasoned playgoers may remember Delany as an ingénue in the1980 Broadway production of Hugh Leonard's A Life, starring Roy Dotrice. (She caught Dotrice's Tony-winning performance in A Moon for the Misbegotten before it closed last month.) Born in Manhattan in 1956, Dana Welles Delany grew up in Connecticut and received a top-drawer education (Phillips Academy, Wesleyan University) before seeking her fortune as an actress. After A Life, she appeared in Nicholas Kazan's Bloodmoon and traveled with that production to Los Angeles, where she settled down to pursue a career in TV and film.
Best known for her Emmy Award-winning three-year run as Army nurse Colleen McMurphy in China Beach, Delany has kept busy in the past decade with a variety of projects, from highbrow TV fare like The Margaret Sanger Story to the notorious S&M film comedy flop Exit to Eden. (Her only foray back to New York during that time was in the short-lived 1995 Broadway revival of Brian Friel's Translations.) Just last week, TV viewers could saw Delany as a plucky victim of the debilitating illness scleroderma in Just Hope, co-starring her former boyfriend Henry Czerny (who played Captain Bluntschli in the Roundabout's recent production of Arms and the Man).
For our TheaterMania interview, Delany was down-to-earth and quick to laugh. She's clearly enjoying being on stage in a hit play; here's hoping she'll come back to New York more frequently.
TM: What drew you to Dinner With Friends?
DELANY: I just thought it was very smartly written. Having never been married, that's not something I totally relate to. For me, it was more about being in your 40s, looking back on your life and asking, "What are my friendships about?" We all have friendships that fall by the wayside, and I find that interesting.
TM: Did the idea of being a replacement in an Off-Broadway show give you pause?
DELANY: Oh, god, no. I was really honored to be asked. When I came to see the play for the first time, I was so impressed. And it's really a luxury to watch somebody else do it; you can see what the hard parts are, and see the example set. I sort of compare it to making a cake from a mix rather than from scratch. The hardest thing was learning the lines, which I have never had a problem with before. I wasn't learning them organically [during rehearsal]. I had to learn them by rote. I really owe my sister a lot, because she would drill me on the lines.
TM: Did you identify with your character at all?
DELANY: Actually, I'm not very much like Karen, because I tend to see the gray areas in everything; so I found it hard, at first, to be judgmental about people. Now, I'm starting to find it very liberating to be so opinionated! [laughs] There's something nice about being so definite about things.
TM: I totally identified with Karen. Her attitude is, "What's the matter with these people?!"
DELANY: [laughs] Life is very black and white for her, and I find that women relate to that--especially after a certain age. You start to think, "Come on! Quit equivocating, make a decision in your life, and move on!"
TM: You have a very nice stage partnership with Matthew Arkin. How did that develop in such a short time?
DELANY: First of all, he's the comedy king. When it comes to timing, he's incredibly helpful. And he was very open. I had about 10 hours of rehearsal, and he stayed longer than he was being paid to. He was very concerned about the relationship [between the characters].
TM: You're both Wesleyan University alumni.
DELANY: Yes. He was being tricky: He asked me, "When did you graduate?" [laughs] He was just trying to find out how old I am. He's four years younger than me. Ironically, I saw [Donald Margulies'] Sight Unseen with [Matthew's brother] Adam Arkin, who played my husband on China Beach.