Sexy French comedy delivers plenty of laughs
‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’
- Now through Nov. 16
- North Coast Repertory Theatre
- 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach
- (858) 481-1055
Best known for his global smash hit “Boeing-Boeing,” French playwright Marc Camoletti’s sexy romp, “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” has entertained Parisan, London and American audiences since first produced in 1991. Pulling off a high-energy and exaggerated farce requires precise timing, keen direction and a very capable cast. The North Coast Rep’s version of the play, well-directed by Rosina Reynolds, delivers on all of these elements with vivacious hilarity.
A lovely converted French farmhouse is now home to Bernard (Phil Johnson) and Jacqueline (Lisel Gorell-Getz), a couple that seems grounded in reality. Yet each is hiding a secret.
As the play opens, Bernard is actually pushing his wife out the door to go visit her mother for the weekend. Time is running short as his mistress, Suzanne (Amanda Sitton), will soon be at the door.
With arms firmly in her coat, Jacqueline answers the phone and learns that Bernard is not staying home alone but has invited a cook to come prepare dinner for him. Only one minute and the next phone call later, Jacqueline also learns that Robert (Christopher Williams), the couple’s friend and her secret lover, will be arriving any minute for a visit as well.
This sets the scene for what will ultimately be many misunderstood relations between six people and their extremely humorous reactions. As Jacqueline decides to stay home, Bernard (“Les Miserables” and “Sunset Boulevard”) turns to the audience with a dead set clenched-teeth frown and says, “I’m delighted.”
As soon as Robert arrives the now overly distraught Bernard attempts to convince him to pretend that Suzanne is his girlfriend. Robert knows he can’t do this without making Jacqueline angry, but agrees. When Suzette (Jacque Wilke), the cook Bernard hired, shows up, Robert mistakes her for Suzanne and for a hefty sum convinces her to go along with the plan. This, of course, means sexy model Suzanne is forced into the role of a gourmet cook when she arrives.
In the next hour, players exchange identities so quickly everyone is left constantly wondering “who’s on first?,” and in which bedroom - the Piggery or the Cattle Shed - the chosen couples will sleep. Sexual innuendos are offered and retracted many times, and Bernard will have to change clothes again and again until he has nothing left to wear but pajamas. The cook gets a one-two-ripping fashion makeover by Bernard and Robert that would make Channel jealous.
Fast and witty dialogue with terms such as the “model with a waddle,” “the hooker as a cooker,” and “if you say so…,” help move the story forward and keep it from becoming cliche. One long-winded explanation from Williams (“The Chosen” and “Tuesdays with Morrie”) to set the playing field got a rousing applause from the audience.
The three women in the play each have their own thread in pulling the story together. Lisel Gorell-Getz (“Current Nobody” and “Intimate Apparel”) steers her character into a sexy but suspicious playmate who doesn’t want to be bested. Sitton’s (“Sailor’s Song” and “Torch Song Trilogy”) job is to make Amanda funny, which she does perfectly. Acquiring many of her laughs through her pretzel-like body movements, Sitton also heightens Amanda’s dimwittedness.
Wilke (“Dinner with Friend”) delivers her lines precisely timed, well spoken and has the comical personality to match each statement.
The second act arrives just at the right time when the laughs begin to wear thin, but intrigues to how this dilemma will ultimately be settled. Anyone who likes a well-done comedy won’t be disappointed with “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”