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Don't Dress for Dinner

The Roundabout Theatre Company presents an amusing production of Marc Camoletti's farce. logo
Jennifer Tilly, Ben Daniels, Spencer Kayden
in Don't Dress for Dinner
(© Joan Marcus)
Mistaken identities and secret affairs are the hallmarks of many a farce, and such is the case with Marc Camoletti's amusing Don't Dress for Dinner, now receiving its Broadway premiere from the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre under John Tillinger's capable direction.

Neither the play itself (adapted by Robin Hawdon) nor the production is as skillfully written or as laugh-out-loud funny as the recent Broadway production of Camoletti's Boeing Boeing. But despite some overly contrived segments, it's still a lot of fun.

Set in 1960 in a country home outside of Paris, Don't Dress for Dinner concerns Bernard (Adam James), who has planned a romantic weekend with his mistress Suzanne (Jennifer Tilly), while wife Jacqueline (Patricia Kalember) is supposed to be visiting her mother. But as soon as Jacqueline finds out that their best friend Robert (Ben Daniels) is also coming to visit, she decides to actually stay in town -- as the two have been carrying on a clandestine affair.

Since Bernard is completely unaware of this, he recruits a reluctant Robert to help him throw Jacqueline off the scent by claiming Suzanne is Robert's mistress. Complicating matters even further, Bernard has hired a chef named Suzette (Spencer Kayden), whose name is similar enough to Suzanne's to get Robert confused.

Soon, numerous cover stories need to be created to account for various agendas, with all of the characters -- particularly Robert -- finding it difficult to remember who is supposed to know what, and even who is having an affair with whom!

Daniels has a great sense of timing and an expressive physicality, while James exudes a smugness that doesn't become too oily. Kalember balances a no-nonsense primness with a fierce sensuality, and Tilly gets a lot of comic mileage out of her not-so-bright character.

But the true delight of the production is Kayden, whose oddly enchanting Suzette is drawn into the ever-escalating series of lies spun by Bernard and Robert, and who demands an ever-increasing sum of money to help pull it off.

John Lee Beatty's handsome earth-toned scenic design is the perfect backdrop for the goings-on within the show, and William Ivey Long's wonderful costumes give the production the visual pop that it needs. In fact, the designer outdoes himself when Suzette's maid's outfit needs to be transformed into something more suitable for a formal dinner. That moment is pure comic gold.

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