Don’t Dress for Dinner Review
Timing is everything in farce, but it isn’t the fault of the people behind “Don’t Dress For Dinner,” that it has the bad timing to be arriving at the very end of the Broadway season shortly after “One Man, Two Guvnors,” the far less elegant farce that is actually funny.
Nor can they be blamed for being unable to cast Mark Rylance again in another farce by Marc Camoletti, the French playwright who also wrote “Boeing Boeing,” as well as some 40 other plays that one might hope the Roundabout Theater Company will not consider reviving.
Bernard, a character from “Boeing Boeing,” has gotten married to Jacqueline, but he is no less a philanderer as he was, committing adultery on occasion with a sluttish model named Suzanne. On this particular weekend, Bernard has planned a tryst with Suzanne in his country home to celebrate her birthday, while his wife Jacqueline is off visiting her mother. But there is a complication. It turns out that Bernard’s friend Robert (another character from “Boeing Boeing”) has suddenly returned from abroad and has announced he is going to visit for the weekend. When Jacqueline learns this, she cancels her plans with her mother. Jacqueline, you see, has been conducting her own adulterous affair, with Robert.
Is this clear so far? From here it gets complicated. When Bernard learns that his wife Jacqueline is going to stay during the weekend, he has to account for the arrival of Suzanne. So Bernard tells his wife Jacqueline that Suzanne is Robert’s mistress – which outrages Jacqueline, since she thought she was Robert’s only mistress – which she is, but Bernard doesn’t know that.
Then the cook, Suzette, arrives in the house, and is mistaken for Suzanne, who is then mistaken for Suzette.
There is actually much more to this plot, the piling on of panicked prevarications, manic misunderstandings, and asinine assumptions among these five characters, along with the spritzing of seltzer, the stomping of imaginary insects, much flapping of arms, inadvertent groping and deliberate smooching.
Then Suzette’s husband arrives.
Amid the head-spinning mayhem, there are three highlights: 1. Jennifer Tilly as Suzanne the slut, 2. William Ivey Long’s costumes, especially a maid’s outfit that is transformed before our very eyes into a slinky, suave cocktail dress, and, above all, 3 the actress who is wearing the frilly maid’s outfit at the time that it is transformed into a skimpy cocktail dress — Spencer Kayden. She plays the cook who is hired for the evening who is roped into pretending to play a mistress, then a niece, then….um.
I don’t know where they have kept Spencer Kayden locked up since her Broadway debut as Little Sally in “Urinetown” 11 years ago, but they need to build a show around her – a different show, not an ancient farce like “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”
Don’t Dress for Dinner
American Airlines Theater
By Marc Camoletti; adapted by Robin Hawdon
Directed by John Tillinger
Sets by John Lee Beatty; costumes by William Ivey Long; lighting by Ken Billington; sound by David Van Tieghem; hair and wig design by Paul Huntley; fight director, Thomas Schall;.
Cast: Ben Daniels (Robert), Adam James (Bernard), Patricia Kalember (Jacqueline), Jennifer Tilly (Suzanne), Spencer Kayden (Suzette) and David Aron Damane (George).
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes.
“Don’t Dress for Dinner” is set to run through June 17.
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