by Douglas Dodasovich, EDGE Contributor
ICT MainStage opened it’s 2009-2010 season with the delectable farce Don’t Dress For Dinner featuring Kristin Chenoweth and Hugh Grant and that guy from The Sopranos. Or not. Confused? Welcome to a farce where no one is who they seem and everyone has something to hide. (We’ll get back to Kristen, Hugh and that guy from The Sopranos later.)
Don’t Dress For Dinner centers on pals Bernard and Robert. Bernard has arranged for his wife to be out of town for the weekend so he can have a romantic weekend with his mistress Suzanne with Robert serving as his alibi. However, when Bernard’s wife, Jacqueline, finds out that Robert is coming she cancels her plans because she and Robert are lovers. Robert reluctantly agrees with Bernard’s scheme to pretend that Suzanne is Robert’s girlfriend and waits at the cottage while Bernard and Jacqueline go shopping for the caterer that Bernard has hired. When the caterer Suzette arrives, Robert naturally assumes she is Bernard’s mistress, Suzanne. Suzette eventually agrees to go along with the plan and all four begin a quartet of performances each with their own motives. Stay with me. The real fun begins when Suzanne, Bernard’s real mistress, shows up and, despite being more comfortable with a cream de menthe than a Cream Brule, is forced to play the cook.
Don’t Dress For Dinner was written by Marc Camoletti (adapted by Robin Hawdon), a master of the modern French farce. This was Camoletti’s sequel to his signature piece, Boeing-Boeing, which opened in 1960 and played a staggering 19 years on the Paris stage. (It recently had a successful Tony-winning Broadway revival.) Dinner ran seven years in London’s West End and has long been a regional and community theatre staple. (A recent Chicago production is being slated for a Broadway run this Spring.) It contains the usual elements of farce: mistaken identities, improbable, twisting plots, broad physical humor, slamming of doors, sexual situations, double entendres and a lightening speed plot. In other words, Three’s Company and Frasier territory.
A light, frothy confection, ICT has a delicious hit due in no small part to a triumphant triumvirate of performances. Spicy, succulent Angela Allen (Suzette) plays over the course of the evening a girlfriend, a model, an actress, a prostitute, a niece, a wife and a cook. Allen has seemingly marinated in the role delivering the wordy dialogue and her shifts of characters with ease. Brad Stephens plays a befuddled Robert with zest. He’s a deft physical comedian reminiscent of the late John Ritter in his prime. And did I mention the more befuddled Robert becomes, the more Mr. Stephens looks like Hugh Grant? (Talent and eye-candy too.) Savory Ginger Goldman, who resembles either Chenoweth (to me) or Kyra Sedgwick (to my husband is a delight outshining everyone whenever she’s on stage. Every nuance, facial reaction and phrase is top-notch. Scott Nixon, looking like he stepped out of The Sopranos makes an effective memorable appearance late in the show. ICT mainstay Jill Stephens directs with confidence and keeps the action moving at a tight pace. A few subtle updates (wireless phones, references to Euros) work seamlessly.
If your idea of theater is a hearty seven-course meal, pass on this. However, if you’re in the mood for a decadent dessert with unexpected bursts of flavor, put Don’t Dress for Dinner on your grocery list.
Don’t Dress For Dinner runs through November 21, 2009 at the Dupree Theatre, Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving, Texas. For more information visit the theater’s website.