BWW Reviews: Anglo-Franco Fusion Farce DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER Sparks Frivolity and Laughter
In theatre, a farce is a comedy that aims at entertaining the audience through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, and thus improbable. And while the plot may be incomprehensible and use deliberate absurdity and broadly stylized characters who make frequent exits and entrances through many doors on a single location set, when all the elements fall into place in perfect harmony, the resulting frivolity and laughter go beyond the words on the page to reveal utter hysteria.
Such is the case with Anglo-Franco Fusion Farce DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER by Marc Camoletti, adapted by Robin Hawdon, now onstage at Theatre Palisades through May 11. Director Sherman Wayne has assembled the most perfect cast for such whimsical merriment, and the actors' total enjoyment of their roles and each other is evident each and every moment they are onstage.
The play is set in the renovated French farmhouse of Brits Bernard and Jacqueline (Michael Allen and Maria Pavone), about two hours outside of Paris. When Jacqueline finds out their good friend Robert (Drew Fitzsimmons), who just happens to be her lover, is visiting for the weekend, she quickly cancels her weekend trip to see her mother. What Jacqueline does not know is that Bernard, thinking his wife will be away, has planned a weekend tryst in their home with his delectable mistress, Suzanne (Maria O'Connor), and ordered in a French Cordon Bleu cook, Suzette (Holly Sidell), to make sure all goes well in the kitchen while Jacqueline is gone.
But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. With his wife and mistress there for the weekend, Bernard calls upon his friend Robert to cover for him. And with a Suzanne and Suzette in the mix, hilarity is sure to follow, leading to mistaken identities and a deliriously convoluted comedy that gets zanier by the minute. And those minutes fly by thanks to the fast pacing set by director, Sherman Wayne, and carried out by his dedicated actors.
Michael Allen and Maria Pavone are a joy to watch as they dance around each other, each trying to hide the fact that their lovers are in their home for the weekend. Along with Drew Fitzsimmons, the ultimate rogue if there ever was one, these three actors have impeccable comedic timing and facial expressions that could stop a train in its tracks or worm their way into anyone's heart. Each has monologues that would confuse anyone, yet they are delivered so convincingly that the audience need not really follow along but just enjoy the ensuing laughter as even the characters realize how over-the-top their explanations have become.
But it is Holly Sidell as the smart beyond her job cook Suzette who benefits most from the outlandish stories being concocted to hide the truth. For no sooner is a new role thrown her way, Siddell prances around deliciously after first putting her hand out for another 200 franc tip. By the end of the play, her cup doth runneth over in more ways than one!
And speaking of things running over, poor actress/model Suzanne arrives and in the mix-up is sent to the kitchen to prepare their festive meal. Maria O'Connor enters dressed in expensive finery and as the play progresses, takes us through her utter lack of culinary skills, which cause an array of problems for all concerned. Food is thrown, seltzer is sprayed, and a good time is had by all.
And just when things seem to be working out, Suzette's husband George (Rodney K. Carrington) arrives to take his wife home and gets an earful on just what she has been up to over the past several hours. His jealousy fuels an uproarious physical confrontation, first with the men and then the women. When Suzette finally calms him down, they take their leave, leaving the two sets of mismatched lovers to work out their sleeping arrangements. Just who will wind up in the upstairs bedroom or rooms formerly inhabited by cows, pigs, or hens will keep you roaring with laughter to the very end.
So put aside your troubles for a few hours and enjoy in the merriment onstage in DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER at Theatre Palisades Pierson Playhouse. Performances run through May 11, 2014 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm.
Director: Sherman Wayne
Producers: Martha Hunter and Sylvia Grieb
Theatre Palisades Pierson Playhouse is located at 941 Temescal Canyon Rd., (south of Sunset Blvd.), Pacific Palisades 90272, with free onsite parking
Tickets: Adults $20; Seniors & Students $18. Box Office (310) 454-1970 www.theatrepalisades.com