FRONT ROW CENTER

By Michael Warren
Don’t Dress For Dinner
By Marc Camoletti
Directed by Roger Tredway

 

front-rowThis Marc Camoletti play embodies all the best traditions of French farce—mistaken identity, misunderstandings, lies, adultery and deceit. If you are looking for redeeming social purpose, go elsewhere. This play is cheerfully retro and happily un-PC, and extremely funny. There is even a (sort of) happy ending, and the audience just sat back and enjoyed themselves. At the final curtain, they gave the cast a well-deserved ovation.

“Bernard” plans a sexy weekend with his mistress “Suzanne” while his wife “Jacqueline” is away visiting her mother. His best friend “Robert”—just returned from Hong Kong—is also arriving, and will provide a useful alibi, in case the neighbors notice Suzanne. In order to ensure a delicious dinner, Bernard arranges for a cook (called “Suzette”) from the “Bon Appetit” gourmet culinary agency. It’s all set up – nothing can go wrong.

However, unknown to Bernard, Robert is having a clandestine affair with Jacqueline, who decides to stay home when she hears that Robert is on his way. And Robert also mistakes the cook for the mistress – both are called Suzy. When Suzanne arrives, she has to pretend to be the cook, and from here on it’s downhill all the way.

The cast handled the increasing chaos with an amusing mixture of puzzlement and deadpan humor. The pacing was good though I felt that some of the slapstick (pie in the face, etc. was overdone. Zane Pumiglia was suitably lecherous as Bernard, desperately trying to bed Suzanne without being discovered by Jacqueline. Perhaps his interpretation lacked the poise and sophistication that the author intended—instead he padded around the stage like a frustrated bear. Gerry Marttila was excellent as Jacqueline, alternately the suspicious wife and the amorous would-be mistress.

And Randi Watkins played Suzanne with a world-weary air that only a vodka martini (actually, several martinis) could make this crazy weekend bearable. Both of these actors had good timing, and managed to look glamorous in the midst of the ongoing confusion. Ken Yakiwchuk as Robert portrayed unwillingness followed by embarrassment, and eventually what-the-hell enjoyment with some skill, and also managed some long tongue-twister speeches. The audience applauded his verbal dexterity.

Whenever she was on stage, Georgette Richmond, as Suzette the cook, stole the show. She was simply hilarious – posing as mistress, model, actress, whatever. She had a perfect part for her comedic talents. I should also mention the ponderous Paul Dupont, who appears towards the end as Suzette’s husband “George.”

All in all, an entertaining evening which was a stimulus for the funny-bone. Roger Tredway did a good job with the varied talents of his cast, and introduced some neat touches —the mooing sound of the doorbell and the onstage transformation of Suzette from cook to model. The set was effective as a farm building converted to a country retreat near Paris. Congratulations to the Production Crew and particularly to Trish Conner (Stage Manager) who kept the show rolling and even read the part of Suzette while Georgette lip-synched in the preview show. Fortunately Georgette recovered her voice in time for the regular run of the play.

By the time you read this, it will be 2010 – may I wish my readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

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