Don’t Dress for Dinner is a two-act farce by French playwright by Marc Camoletti. In true farce fashion, it’s a quick-paced comedy where misunderstandings and sexual innuendo abound. The non-stop action surrounds the preparation of a dinner party for Bernard’s mistress Suzanne, which is complicated by the unexpected appearance of Bernard’s wife Jacqueline, which impacts the expected appearance of Bernard’s chum Robert (Jacqueline’s lover) and Suzette (the hired cook for the dinner).
Miner’s Alley Nails Taxing Genre
HE SAID: In my opinion, there is one major challenge facing any theatre company trying to present a farce – finding the perfect balance between pace (or timing) and clarity. If you try too hard to push the fast paced required by (almost) every farce, you risk losing the clarity of the inevitably intricate plot. If you try focus too much on plot, then you risk the show running slowly and end up being boring. Fortunately, the cast and creative team of MAP’s production managed to perfectly find the balance creating an impeccably timed telling of a crystal clear story, that twists and turns every scene without the slightest bit of confusion.
SHE SAID: I definitely think that MAP made it over the first hurdle of this sort of material by telling the story clearly and with good timing. I was amazed at the technical skill displayed by the performers. They handled a great number of lines with a great deal of precision (no line flubbing or stumbling over syllables, and with dialects and accents to boot) and were consistently hitting their marks in terms of the complex physicality involved. The production was something to behold for that feat alone!
Bouchard Highlights Impressive Ensemble Cast
HE SAID: One aspect of a play that often times gets overlooked is the power of the ensemble (and I don’t mean chorus in a musical – that’s for a different post). People are often focused on the leading man/woman as the burden of the show is believed to ride on their shoulders, when in fact many shows are often resting on the cast as a whole. Well, if the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, this cast is strong enough to hold up a bridge. Ever person was on point the night we went, performing their role to the fullest in perfect time with the rest of the cast. It was truly impressive to watch them work together.
SHE SAID: I agree that the ensemble as a whole was quite strong. Haley Johnson was alternately pouty and sultry and really sold the duality of her character as an aggressor in her own affair and victim of her husband’s. Stacey Nelms as Suzette was appropriately endearing and handled her French dialect with noticeable skill. Missy Moore had just the right tone for a role that could be somewhat alienating, but turned rather sweet. For me, however Michael Bouchard really stood out as going above and beyond the rest. While the entire cast was endearing, funny, and embraced very different characterizations (without going too far over the top, which is a danger), Bouchard was even more genuine on top of that, which made you actually care about the fate of his character (beyond an amused fascination with how the plot will resolve).
Splendid Design Leaves Room for Nitpicks
HE SAID: In terms of design, the show was quite nicely handled. The set was designed well, especially to handle the quick exits and entrances. The costumes worked well and even had some magic as they transformed the proper cook into a sexy vixen in a few quick movements. The only element that felt off was the sound design. There is nothing in the script that pinpoints it in a specific time, so the use of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” isn’t prohibited. However, the costumes and the set decoration made the piece feel not quite today enough to warrant the use of that song in the show (or some of the pre-show music). I’m nitpicking a bit here, but it did seem out of sync with the rest of the show.
SHE SAID: I also really enjoyed the costume design, and thought that the cast’s unwavering commitment to displaying various bareness really worked in the production. The set was carefully designed to support the ins-and-outs of a traditional farce, and the set was well-dressed with props that played a role in the action! I actually wasn’t bothered by the anachronism of “Sexy Back,” but rather wished that the clap-on gag would have continued in more parts of the show where the ruckus on stage seemed to warrant it.
Don’t Dress for Dinner Made Greater by the Sum of It’s Parts
THEY SAID: If you’ve skipped a Pilates class or two since making your New Year’s resolution, an evening at Don’t Dress for Dinner will surely get your abs fired up. While you might find a favorite performance in the bunch, the group is acting as a true ensemble on stage. This tricky farce is handled with admirable skill in the hands of Robert Kramer (director) and a talented cast at Miner’s Alley Playhouse.
For a full plot synopsis and history of Don’t Dress for Dinner, see the wikipedia article. Don’t Dress for Dinner plays through February 27 at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden. Click the banner below for tickets and more information.