A savory farce in Carmel Valley is sautéed in laughter and served in a lace teddy.
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Written by Marc Comoletti, the play premiered in Paris in 1991 and was later adapted to the British stage. The story takes place over a few evening hours in the English countryside, inside the second home of a highbrow London couple. The plot revolves around the couple, their extracurricular liaisons, a caterer, cocktails and, of course, dinner.
The play is part screwball comedy and part “who’s on first?” as the characters’ love lives tangle in deceitful and riotous misconception, confusion and mistaken identities. Half the fun of watching is in the characters’ duplicitous double-take reactions as they take turns reaching for increasingly far-fetched ways of extruding themselves from the quagmire their newest lie has just landed them in.
Co-directors Jack Stauffer and Leslie Krautraemer successfully elicit more than the stereotypical performances often seen in this genre. They lead their cast through uproarious physical comedy, delivered with exceptional comedic timing—spilling of drinks and sauces, stomping on imaginary bugs, wrestling and face slapping—that is wonderful to watch.
The entire cast works well as an ensemble and deserves kudos for great delivery on the one-liners.
Richard Boynton, who joined the cast late in rehearsals as Bernard, the husband, plays the physical comedy with good timing, wears his emotions well and hangs onto the horns of the fast-paced wordplay despite the gradual disappearance of his British accent. Victoria Blaszezak as Jacqueline, the wife, goes effortlessly from cool to energetic fury.
Geoffrey Johnston’s Robert excels in wearing the confused, yet determined expression of a five-year-old caught in a hopeless lie when snared in the deceptions of his own doing and those of his best friend, Bernard. Deborah Curtis deftly plays Suzanne, the haughty and disgruntled model and mistress forced to masquerade as and perform the duties of a cook.
One of the challenges of this piece is for each character to remember where they are in the subterfuge. This is especially true (and expertly carried out) by Wendy Boddy as Suzette, the hired cook and only innocent party, who must adopt four different identities depending on who she’s with. Boddy is very funny and delivers her lines perfectly, whether in proper high-class or cheeky lower-class British. Her facial expressions are priceless as are her drunken scenes and her hiding of the hush money down her blouse. Robert Colter makes a brief, believable and amusing appearance as Suzette’s possessive husband, George.
The set design and costuming by Laura Coté is nicely done, allowing the performers to enter and exit the quaint and cozy set through four different areas wearing anything from ascots and suits to negligees.
Don’t Dress for Dinner continues at the Magic Circle Center through March 14. 659-1108.