The 1000 Islands Playhouse has mounted an antic production of “Don’t Dress for Dinner.” The rollicking farce, by Marc Camoletti and adapted by Robin Hawdon, is a sequel of sorts to his earlier play, “Boeing Boeing,” in that it features the same male leads: Bernard, still having woman problems, in this case with his wife Jacqueline and mistress Suzanne, and Robert, his hapless friend. Through a series of mis-chances they all end up in Bernard’s country home for a disastrous dinner party along with a hired cook, Suzette.
Jung-Hye Kim’s set is good, with plenty of doors for slamming, a necessity for farce. The furniture is colorful and easily tips, another plus. The only flaw is the large mirror on the stage left wall which is very distracting. Oz Weaver’s lighting is good except for the last two scenes, which doesn’t make sense. As the actors leave they turn out the lights, but the stage lights immediately sneak up again to light the final scene. The costumes by Cindy Wiebe are fine and Suzette’s onstage change is very clever. The exception is Jacqueline’s very unflattering nightgown and odd slippers. Also, someone should remind Jacqueline and Suzette to make up their tan lines.
The cast is uneven, but this is one of those situations where it’s hard to tell whether it’s the actors or the director. For example Robert, played by Kirk Smith, begins at such a frenetic pitch of vocal and physical energy that he has no place to go. The character and even early lines get lost in the shuffle. The same applies to Alison Deon as Jacqueline. There’s so much flailing, slapping and physical comedy early on that the play has no build.
Tess Degenstein as Suzette brings a touch of reality to her role, but why is she the only one with a French accent? Todd Thomson as Bernard manages a nice build in his character. The excellent Krista Colosimo as Suzanne proves that farce doesn’t need to negate character. Her performance is three-dimensional throughout and very funny, as is that of Beau Dixon as George.
I can only think that Director Ashlie Corcoran is responsible for the too frenetic pace and overdone physicality. Granted it’s farce, but beginning at such a high pitch tends to hamstring the actors and leave no room for either acting or character. It becomes an athletic challenge. Finally, the curtain call is silly and fun, but the mirror ball is unnecessary and distracting.
That said, it’s still a funny play with, as my companion said, “little or no redeeming social value.” The plot twists are convoluted with many surprises. The audience laughed a lot and “Don’t Dress for Dinner” is a good example of summer theatre frivolity.
Don’t Dress for Dinner – 1000 Islands Playhouse in Association with Gateway Theatre & Western Canada Theatre; runs through August 22 tkts: 613-382-7086
Suzanne: Krista Colosimo
Suzette: Tess Degenstein
Jacqueline: Alison Deon
George: Beau Dixon
Robert: Kirk Smith
Bernard: Todd Thomson
Director: Ashlie Corcoran
Associate Director: Heather Cant
Set Designer: Jung-Hye Kim
Costume Designer: Cindy Wiebe
Sound Designer: Doug Perry
Lighting Designer: Oz Weaver
Fight Director: Jonathan Purvis
Stage Manager: Nicola Benidickson
Assistant Stage Manager: Kate Porter
Dramaturg: Emily Burns