Roundabout Theatre Company in association with Damian Arnold, presents the Broadway premiere of Marc Camoletti's classic farce Don't Dress For Dinner, starring Ben Daniels as "Robert," Patricia Kalember as "Jacqueline," Adam James as "Bernard," David Aron Damane as "George" and Jennifer Tilly as "Suzanne" with Spencer Kayden as "Suzette." Don't Dress For Dinner is adapted by Robin Hawdon and directed by John Tillinger. Don't Dress For Dinner began previews on March 30 and opens tonight, April 26, 2012 at the American Airlines Theatre.
Marc Camoletti's Don't Dress for Dinner is the wildly funny sequel to the Broadway hit Boeing-Boeing. Bernard's plans for a romantic rendezvous with his mistress are complete with a gourmet caterer and an alibi courtesy of his friend, Robert. But when Bernard's wife learns that Robert will be visiting for the weekend, she decides to stay in town for a surprise tryst of her own... setting the stage for a collision course of hidden identities and outrageous infidelities.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: You see, if it were not for the alchemical magic of Mr. Rylance’s Tony-winning performance in Mr. Camoletti’s “Boeing-Boeing,” revived to popular acclaim on Broadway and in the West End a couple of years ago, I doubt I would have had to endure the creaking mechanics of “Don’t Dress for Dinner.” Instead of feeling freshly whipped up from a classic recipe — as “Boeing-Boeing” did, against all odds — this Roundabout Theater Company production has the stale flavor of an old TV dinner defrosted and microwaved.
Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press: It's tired, warmed-over farce that involves seltzer spraying, imaginary insects, boob jokes, loads of alcohol, people jumping over sofas, and the cast running around in dressing gowns. It's all very predictable and really not funny...But if you're in the mood for a European farce, a better one is "One Man, Two Guvnors," a play that seems to have swiped all the manic humor and good cheer from this one. If that sounds a bit like cheating on your wife, then how very appropriate.
David Sheward, Backstage: Forget the inconsistencies and plot holes; a stage farce can only work if the direction and performances are real and honest within the insane framework...Unfortunately, most of the company in 'Dinner' seems mainly interested in grabbing laughs rather than following objectives...If the whole company had followed Kayden’s lead, or if director John Tillinger had revved up his tepid staging, this could have been a satisfying 'Dinner.' Instead, it’s like being served a tray of meager appetizers when you were expecting a full meal.
David Cote, Time Out NY: Was it really four years ago that Camoletti’s Boeing-Boeing brought the house down with howls of laughter, with Mark Rylance’s bizarre antics and the sight of color-coordinated stewardesses tumbling in and out of doors? Don’t Dress is technically a sequel, bringing back horny Bernard and comparatively guileless Robert for more girl trouble and elaborate deceptions. But this time, due to an uneven ensemble, uninspired direction and a too talky script, the farcical magic never materializes...You shouldn’t be aware of time passing during a farce. Although individual actors carve out genuinely funny moments—Daniels becomes amusingly flustered, Tilly is sexily brazen, and Kayden wields a dangerous deadpan—you mainly wait for this busy, bland meal to end, so you can get dessert someplace else.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: While the recent Boeing-Boeing benefited from its clever, stylized staging, from the brilliant comedic instincts of director Matthew Warchus, and above all, from a ridiculously talented farceur in Mark Rylance, Don’t Dress is too old-fashioned to achieve the same heightened lunacy. It’s affable entertainment with many funny moments, but not enough to disguise the mechanical structure and whiff of moldiness of its infidelity-interruptus plot...Tillinger guides the action along at a steady trot, but the material loses steam in the second act, sputtering toward a laborious denouement. Instead of the chaos hinging on increasingly elaborate contretemps, it replays variations on the same theme to diminishing returns. There are laughs, for sure, but compared to the truly inventive farce of One Man, Two Guvnors, playing a couple of blocks away, there’s also a hint of fatigue.
Linda Winer, Newsday: If we really must have a resurgence of low farce on Broadway -- and, alas, it appears we must -- please let Spencer Kayden get cast as often as possible. This delicious comic actress, not seen much around here since her priceless Little Sally 11 years ago in "Urinetown," has a deadpan combination of daffiness and discipline that brings a merry dignity to the most idiotic routines.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "Don't Dress for Dinner," the little bon bon that French playwright Marc Camoletti dashed off after "Boeing-Boeing," ran for seven years in Blighty, where auds dearly love a naughty French sex farce featuring philandering husbands, saucy mistresses and lots of well-oiled doors. After working up this high-gloss version of Robin Hawdon's crafty adaptation at Chicago's Royal George Theater a few years ago, veteran helmer John Tillinger brings it in with an A-list design team and a cast that knows how to negotiate the sublimely silly conventions of classic farce.
Matt Windman, AM New York: There are two new farces now on Broadway. Oddly enough, both revolve around dinner scenes. While one of them is hilarious, the other is as painful as a tooth pulling. "One Man, Two Guvnors," Richard Bean's giddy update of the commedia dell'arte classic "The Servant of Two Masters," is one. The other is Marc Cameletti's "Don't Dress for Dinner," which is now receiving its Broadway premiere following two decades of regional productions, is a derivative and labored sequel to Cameletti's farce "Boeing-Boeing," which had a hit Broadway revival four seasons ago...Except for a few visual gags, William Ivey Long's divine costumes and the delightfully quirky Kayden, don't expect any such magic from John Tillinger's dull pedestrian production.
Howard Shapiro, The Philadelphia Inquirer: I found “Don’t Dress for Dinner” to be head-knockingly convoluted. So do its characters, as they try to explain what’s going on as the two-act moves to resolve itself; part of the gag is that when they attempt to sort everything out, you can’t follow a thing they are saying past the first two sentences...In the end, it didn’t matter, since the situation of the moment becomes clear with a nastily aimed squirt of a seltzer bottle or a shove that has people falling over the side of a couch. It is farce, after all. And it is, after all is said, fun.
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: Were I ever to teach a course in how to stage farce, I'd show a video of the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of "Don't Dress for Dinner" so that my students would know what not to do...When done well, it's a hoot, but John Tillinger, the director, has made the amateurish mistake of encouraging his actors to troll aggressively for laughs instead of letting the situation generate them. Only Ms. Kayden resists the temptation to overegg the pudding, turning in a poker-faced performance that deserves to be remembered at Tony time. Everybody else, especially Mr. James, carries on like Cary Grant in "Arsenic and Old Lace," which is the quickest possible way to kill a farce stone dead.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: While the mayhem in Don't Dress for Dinner never rises to the dizzying heights of Boeing-Boeing, there are plenty of gut-busting moments to savor. And just be glad you didn't have to taste Suzanne's combination of cheese soufflé and baked Alaska.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Back on Broadway for the first time since playing Little Sally in “Urinetown,” Kayden is extra dry with a twist, and steals the evening. You keep wishing she’d get more stage time . . . in another show. [...] This Roundabout show is a slog.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: There are some dry patches, but veteran director John Tillinger keeps thing moving fairly lickety-split. One wishes he’d found a way to make more out of the country-house setting. Kayden, meantime, gets maximum laughs from Suzette as she tangoes, topples and tipples her way through the role. Each time Bernard or Robert impose upon Suze to keep up their charade, she obliges but first sticks out her paw for payment. It’s a fitting image for the actress who holds the show in her palm of her hand.
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: There are few things in the theater more distressing than a labored farce.