Review: Don’t Dress for Dinner

Presented by Galleon Theatre Group Inc.
Reviewed Thursday 18th October 2012

Galleon are on a real winner with this French farce, written by Marc Camoletti and adapted by Robin Hawdon. The setting is a property, a stylish barn conversion, in the countryside outside Paris, owned by a seemingly happy and financially comfortable young couple. We are in a smart, modern living area, with bedrooms either side downstage, an exit to the kitchen upstage one side, and a staircase to the upstairs bedrooms upstage on the other, with the front door upstage centre. Any good farce needs plenty of points of access.

Bernard’s wife, Jacqueline, is planning a weekend visit to her mother. Bernard is planning a dirty weekend with his mistress, Suzanne. His friend Robert has just returned from a business trip and Bernard has invited him for the weekend to act as an alibi if needed. He has also hired a cook, Suzette, for the evening from a local catering agency. All is set and nothing can go wrong; or can it? Jacqueline discovers that Robert is coming for the weekend. She promptly cancels her trip, since he is her secret lover and she wants to engage in some extra-marital fun and games behind Bernard’s back.

Bernard and Jacqueline go shopping for ingredients for dinner and Bernard instructs Robert to greet his lover, Suzy, when she arrives, and to then pretend that she is his girlfriend, something Robert definitely does not want to do as he wants to be free to chase Jacqueline. With the cook on the scene as well, and everybody keeping secrets and pretending that their various relationships are other than what they really are, mayhem ensues. No wonder the cook’s husband, George, is confused, when he arrives to collect her after dinner.

Director, John Graham, has assembled a fine cast and together they have developed a cohesive approach to the production based on some superb characterisations. It is all too easy to overplay a farce aiming for cheap laughs and, sadly, few directors ever realise that by treating it with the same way as a drama, creating three-dimensional characters and allowing the laughs to come naturally. Graham obviously understands this and has not fallen into that trap, resulting in a genuinely funny production.

Andrew Clark and Nicole Rutty are ideally cast as Bernard and Jacqueline. The have an excellent rapport, convincing as an established couple, and with some great interplay as the lies and mistaken identities compound and they find themselves bemused, confused, jealous, frantic, and furious as events unfold. They give us a long string of hysterical moments as they each try to hide their affairs from the other.

Mason Willis plays the reluctantly involved Robert, adding another convincing performances as the ‘piggy in the middle’ of the machinations of Bernard, Jacqueline, and Suzanne, while trying to get what he wants as well. He shows us the hilarity in his torment from trying to help his friend hide his affair, while also trying to maintain his own.

Lana Adamuszek plays Suzette, the Cordon Bleu chef, investing her character with all the craftiness and cheekiness required, catching on instantly to the financial opportunities made available to her by conniving with the philanderers. She gives a lively performance filled with youthful energy and a great sense of playfulness.

Olivia Eblen takes on the role of Suzanne, a Parisian model, bringing a nice touch of style and elegance to her character. Eblen gives her character an air of growing frustration as her night of passion with Bernard seems to be continually looking less likely then, taking a pragmatic approach to the problem, begins to consider other options, turning on the seduction so as not to waste a weekend. Eblen gives Suzanne good blend of sexy with class.

Stephen Small appears as Suzette’s jealous and protective husband, George, a solid mass of muscle ready to thump first and talk later where the fidelity of his wife is concerned. Small makes his brief appearance count, generating another batch of laughs as they others try to explain things to his satisfaction.

If you need a good belly laugh, these chaotic attempts to maintain the status quo in the face of ever increasing holes appearing in the fabrications, is just what you are looking for. Don’t delay, as the venue has limited capacity, and this group always attract large audiences.

You have a choice of conventional theatre seating, or you can take a supper and sit at a table, so let them know your preference when you book.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

Galleon web site

Venue: Domain Theatre, Marion Cultural Centre, Cnr. Diagonal and Sturt Roads (Adjacent Westfield Shopping Town Marion), Oaklands Park
Season: to 27th October 2012
Duration: 2hrs 10mins (incl. interval)
Tickets: Adults $20/Conc $15
Bookings: 0437 609 577 or by e-mail or online here

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