Gateway Theatre
Don't Dress For Dinner by Marc Camoletti, adapted by Robin Hawdon

Dates and Venue April 7 - 23, 2016, at 8pm, 1pm matinees on April 12 | Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond

Original Director Ashlie Corcoran Revival Director Heather Cant Set Design Jung-Hye Kim Costume Design Cindy Wiebe Lighting Design Oz Weaver Sound Design Doug Perry Technical Director Patsy Tomkins Stage Manager Nicola Benidickson

Reviewer John Jane

First, I have to say that bedroom farce has never been my “thing.” I genuinely find that the turmoil generated by the synchronized comings and goings provide as much irritation as hilarity. Notwithstanding, I did like Marc Camoletti’s Boeing-Boeing, which is a kind of progenitor for Don’t Dress for Dinner. So, I was optimistic that this Camoletti comedy would be good for a few laughs.

Set in a converted farmhouse just outside Paris in the sixties, we again meet Bernard, an architect living in Paris and his long suffering sidekick Robert. Bernard has apparently dumped the flight attendant he hooked up with at the end of Boeing – or more likely, she dumped him.

He is now married to Jacqueline (Alison Deon) who is dressed and packed to visit her mother out of town. This gives Bernard an opportunity to arrange the visit of his girlfriend Suzanne (Krista Colosimo). When Jacqueline learns of a stopover visit from Robert, the object of her own secret affair, she abandons her plans to spend time with Mom. Of course, this change puts a spoke in Bernard’s wheel, so it’s on to plan B.

Revival director Heather Cant gives Todd Thomson in the role of Bernard and Kirk Smith as Robert pretty much free rein. They are both completely over-the-top. Sure, no one expects subtlety when playing farce, but Thomson and Smith’s performances border on punchinello.

Alison Deon is more composed. She is calmly indignant when discovering her husband’s caper, but feels entirely blameless in her own shenanigans. Tess Degenstein as the caterer Suzette (the similarity between Suzette and Suzanne is the basis of the plotline’s chaos) is brilliant as the comic anchor. Suzette deftly handles all the twists n’ turns and “delicate situations” while leaving the house with a few hundred extra francs manages and Suzanne fur coat.

Jung-Hye Kim’s detailed rustic farmhouse set with gable ceiling and tasteful living room has enough doorways and entrances to keep everyone confused. However, the painted sky over the roof structure seems like a needless flourish. Cindy Wiebe’s clothing, particularly Alison Deon’s stylish outfits is essentially authentic in terms of time and place.

A good romp doesn’t have to offer a profound message or moral direction. Its only purpose is to send audiences home with smiles on their faces. Seeing the huge grins on Gateway Theatre patrons at the end of the show - Don’t Dress for Dinner did that!

© 2016 John Jane