When was the last time you went to a play and laughed nonstop, even chuckling your way through intermission? If that’s what you want, come on down to the Halle Cultural Arts Center in Apex for Don’t Dress for Dinner. Adapted by Robin Hawdon and directed by Kathleen Rudolph, this production has been expertly cast; the pace is brisk; and the comic timing is impeccable.
Meet Bernard (played by Christopher Brown). He lives two hours outside of Paris. Jacqueline (Jenny Anglum) is Bernard’s wife. She is going to spend the weekend with her mother.
Suzanne (a.k.a. Suzie) (Tracey Phillips) is Bernard’s mistress. She’s going to spend the weekend with Bernard. Suzette (also a.k.a. Suzie) (Denise Michelle Penven-Crew) works for the Bon Apetit catering agency. George (Jonathan King) is her husband.
Robert (Larry Evans) is Bernard’s friend. (He’s also Jacqueline’s lover, but don’t tell anyone.)
With Jacqueline away, Bernard is expecting to spend a wonderful weekend with Suzanne. He has booked a Le Cordon Bleu cook through Bon Apetit. And he has invited Robert for the weekend as sort of alibi — just in case.
Jacqueline answers two phone calls that were intended for Bernard (remember those days when the only phone in the household was the land-line?).
One call is from Bon Apetit, to confirm the booking and to let him know that they are sending Suzette. The other is from Robert, confirming that he is on his way (which Jacqueline did not know) and that he will be arriving soon.
Suspicious of Bernard’s plans (and eager to see Robert), Jacqueline cancels her trip to her mother’s. The result: Bernard has to manufacture a cover story. Referring to her as Suzie, he convinces Robert to be prepared to claim that Suzanne is his girlfriend.
While Bernard and Jacqueline are away getting groceries, Suzette arrives and introduces herself to Robert as Suzie. Unaware of the mistaken identity, Robert briefs Suzette, preparing her to play her role. Naturally, it will bother Bernard that this is the wrong Suzie; and it will bother Jacqueline that Robert has another lover.
And this is just the first of many subterfuges. Suzanne will arrive later and be enlisted into role-playing as well. Suffice it to say that as the plot thickens, Plan A has to be replaced by Plan B, which has to be replaced by Plan C, which has to be replaced …. Much alcohol is consumed. (Side note: Suzette is well-compensated for her many performances.)
A good share of the side-splitting comedy results from the audience knowing all the facts, while each character onstage is missing key pieces of information. The entire cast plays off each other expertly, the chemistry is right, and facial expressions and body language are priceless. And we must reiterate: their timing is impeccable.
There is also physical comedy, including some spillage, some drenching, and a couple of well-choreographed tussles (a tip of the hat to fight choreographer Connor Gregory).
Thomas Mauney’s set is authentic, imaginative, and impressive. The walls are done in an interesting fashion.
Jenny Mitchell’s costumes are all appropriate for the setting and for the specific characters; and even though the title would tend to suggest otherwise, there are costume changes to look forward to.
Director Kathleen Rudolph’s program note states that she is “once again thrilled to be working with 6 incredibly talented actors, who made the rehearsal process very entertaining!” We suspect that the feeling was, indeed, mutual.
Astonishingly, the Department of Picky-Picky has nothing to complain about!
Productions at the Halle Cultural Arts Center often only run one weekend. Fortunately, Don’t Dress for Dinner will be running a second weekend, April 29-May 1.
We definitely recommend this show to anyone seeking an evening full of laughs. Come join the fun! But come a little early, because parking might be tight.
The Halle Cultural Arts Center presents DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER at 3 p.m. April 24, 7:30 p.m. April 29 and 30, and 3 p.m. May 1 at 237 N Salem St, Apex, North Carolina 27502.
TICKETS: $12 ($10 seniors).
BOX OFFICE: 919-249-1120 or http://www.etix.com/.
SHOW: http://www.thehalle.org/457/Upcoming-Events and https://www.facebook.com/events/589589804521429/.
VIDEO PREVIEW (by Carbon Footprint Productions): https://vimeo.com/160664865.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.thehalle.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/thehalleofApex/.
Don’t Dress for Dinner (1987 Paris, 1991 West End, and 2012 Broadway comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/1252/dont-dress-for-dinner (Samuel French, Inc.), http://www.robinhawdon.com/dont-dress-for-dinner.html (Robin Hawdon’s website), https://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Shows-Events/Don-t-Dress-for-Dinner.aspx (Roundabout Theatre Company page), http://www.ibdb.com/Production/View/491120 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don’t_Dress_for_Dinner (Wikipedia).
Marc Camoletti (French playwright, 1923-2003): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=7490 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0131942/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Camoletti_%28playwright%29 (Wikipedia).
Robin Hawdon (English adapter): http://www.robinhawdon.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/491122 (Internet Broadway Database).
Kathleen Rudolph (Raleigh, NC director and Raleigh Little Theatre associate education director): http://raleighlittletheatre.org/learn/youth/faculty.html (RLT bio).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.