before him, Daniels’ work is always competent, solid, and comfortable in its ability to offer up well-crafted entertainment, rather than envelope-pushing art.
In Best of Friends, Daniels puts two outwardly secure, civilized couples in a tasteful, well-appointed living room, then turns their mundane social evening into the upper-middle-class equivalent of a cage fight. It proved a golden formula for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and God of Carnage (the Yasmina Reza play in which Jeff Daniels performed on Broadway). Daniels has frankly identified God of Carnage as the inspiration for Best of Friends, and he seems to tip his hat even more to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? As in Woolf, the two couples in Best of Friends aren’t evenly matched: Beth (Michelle Mountain) and John (Alex Leydenfrost) are older, wealthier, and predatory. Beth is booze-addled, and (as Beth’s taunts point out) John is sterile, and possibly impotent. The younger couple, Ken and Hannah (Matthew David and Rhiannon Ragland), like Albee’s younger couple, initially seem wholly opposite to Beth and John—but the action quickly departs from that of Daniels’ two inspirations and takes off on its own.