OpenStage’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner” Is A Delectable Farce In The French Countryside!

Steller Cast Provides Laugh-Out-Loud Situations In This Bawdy Tale.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 2, 1017

Bernard, a successful Frenchman living with his wife, Jacqueline, in a country home, has taken careful precautions to plan the weekend to perfection. Jacqueline is set to go away by train for a few days to visit her mother. He has arranged with a catering service to provide a delectable dinner to share with his mistress, Suzanne, who is due to arrive for a blissful weekend of love making. Bernard learns that a longtime buddy, Robert, is also in the area, and can see no worry about also inviting him to the home, at least for dinner.

Bernard’s plans fall apart in quick order. When Jacqueline learns that the friend, Robert, is coming to stay the night, she cancels plans to visit her mother. Bernard does not know that his wife, Jaqueline, is Robert’s mistress.

Adam Verner as Robert, Matthew Stalker as Bernard and Brikai Cordova as Suzette in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Don’t Dress for Dinner by Marc Camoletti and adapted by Robin Hawdon, photography by Aubrey Stalnaker Photography

Shortly after Robert arrives, Jacqueline and Bernard leave Robert alone and go out for a few groceries. The klutzy caterer/cook Suzette arrives, with Robert thinking that she must be Bernard’s mistress. When Suzanne, the real mistress, shows up, Robert goes a bit bonkers convincing everyone to pretend they are someone else. Mayhem ensues.

French farce has long been a staple of American comedy. French playwright Marc Camoletti wrote the play which ran for two years in Paris. London producer Mark Furness purchased the English-speaking rights, and he commissioned playwright Robin Hawdon to do a major rewrite. The English version was an immediate success and ran for six years in London.

Upon entering the theatre, the audience is introduced to the delightful set. There are lots of doors going here, there, and everywhere. Doors that I assumed would be opened and slammed at will – a common tradition in comedic farces. I was mistaken. Door slamming was minimal, but the cast of characters topple around the stage, slamming themselves against sofas, chairs, tables, and the floor. At the end of each performance I envision the cast standing in line to have their bruises salved and taped.

Andrew Cole as George and Brikai Cordova as Suzette in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Don’t Dress for Dinner by Marc Camoletti and adapted by Robin Hawdon, photography by Aubrey Stalnaker Photography

Director Wendy S. Moore has carefully orchestrated the split-second timing and amazing articulation as if she were conducting a huge symphony. She succeeds. Facial expressions alone must have taken hours to perfect. “Don’t Dress” is a hoot.

Matthew Stalker portrays Bernard, the master of the house. He has a beguiling charm, as if he is not truly certain of just what is transpiring, and relies on his buddy, Robert, to fix everything. Stalker is well known, and is excellent in the role. Also excellent is Adam Verner, as Robert. Adam is new to Colorado audiences. Hopefully he will be back again and again. His timing is impressive. His diction is perfection, and his physical abilities are a continual delight. Debbie Swann is convincing as the not-so-suffering wife with a boyfriend of her own. Molly McGuire is delicious as the classy mistress who takes a turn at pretending to be a dowdy cook.

Adam Verner as Robert, Matthew Stalker as Bernard, Molly McGuire as Suzanne, Andrew Cole as George, Brikai Cordova as Suzette and Debbie Swann as Jacqueline, in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Don’t Dress for Dinner by Marc Camoletti and adapted by Robin Hawdon, photography by Aubrey Stalnaker Photography

It is Brikai Cordova, however, who rules the show – playing the classless catering maid, Suzette. She is high hilarity as the dumpy, dumb-as-they-come servant girl who turns into a voluptuous and tough as nails entrepreneur accepting “hush money” from nearly everyone in the show. Andrew Cole arrives near the conclusion as Suzette’s husband, checking to see if his wife is OK. He is delightfully aghast to see what a transformation is wife has made.

The program notes (in very small print): “Contains adult themes.” The themes are adult, but provide farcical fun at its bawdy best.

“Don’t Dress for Dinner”
Where: OpenStage Theatre production, on the Magnolia Theatre Stage of Lincoln Center.
417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins.
When: Through April 29, 2017
Tickets: 970/221-6730
For more information: openstage.com

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