February 9, 2020
A perfect panacea for the winter blahs – fast-paced romantic farce
By John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
Ankeny Community Theatre offers this comedic romp at a perfect time for those seeking a respite from the winter chills. This show is filled with over-the-top comedy and won’t take a lot of cerebral contemplation. Don’t Dress for Dinner is an entertaining escape, nothing to be taken seriously except for a serious workout of your funny bone.
Don’t Dress for Dinner is playwright Robin Hawdon’s English adaptation of French playwright Marc Camoletti’s original Pyjama Pour Six. The English version opened in London’s West End in 1991 after producer Mark Furness was drawn to Camoletti’s successful run of his comedy in Paris. A reviewer for The Guardian wrote about his show: “Hurtling along at the speed of light, Marc Camoletti's breathtaking farce is a near faultless piece of theatrical invention. Within seconds we are drawn into a delicious web of marital treachery which accelerates with classic symmetry to an all-star denouement...”
It’s a timeless framework for a story: husband arranges tryst with lover while wife is away; best friend serves as cover for deception; wife’s plans change, husband scrambles while his lover is enroute and catering service chef is arriving. Add best friend is wife’s lover. Et, voila, c’est l’amour.
That call to buckle up for the ride is echoed in Ankeny’s version of a show where infidelity runs rampant in a continual tumbling of almost-got-caughts delighting the audience, which has the distinct advantage of knowing the full stories and connections for each relationship. Indeed, an explosive version of romance in the air fills the single set stage like an overloaded confetti gun. This is an irreverently sassy story that captivates through the sheer outlandishness of the situations and quick double takes and cover-ups. The twisted turns in watching who is doing what with whom and when, with a few whys tossed in, creates a performance more twisted and tangled than Gordian’s knot.
Ankeny Community Theatre has an inviting presence, and the sold-out show shows how well the community supports their theatre. Director Barb Wagner pulls a fine ensemble together for her show. Anchoring the action is the clumsily conniving husband, Bernard, given barely-a-step-ahead-of-disaster believability by the steady Troy Gould. Equally devious, but not as obvious, in her paramour escapades is Debra Garner, giving Bernard’s wife, Jacqueline, a constant cloak of indignation while being on the prowl. Michael Porche as best friend Robert commands on stage with impeccable comedic timing and presence – the audience often sweats, squirms and delights in his antics. As the perky and strong-voiced chef, Suzette, Katty Perrell brings a larcenous exploitation to her role. Veteran comedy actress Kay Mueller vamps as the husband’s lover, Suzanne, bringing a Lucille Ball-esque befuddlement to the Cupid’s quandary. Naturally, the name abbreviation of each the chef and the lover, Suzie, adds to the chaos. A late appearance is George, Suzanne’s husband, and Cory Hug brings a comedic menace to the fray with his role. This recipe for disaster gets more over-baking than a long-forgotten soufflé in a hot oven.
With exaggerated performances and an abundance of physicality and facial flamboyance, the audience never considers delving into the morality of this bawdy scenario. They are laughing too much. The results are a chance to savor the fast-moving pandemonium of paramours and predicaments. In the welcoming confines of the Ankeny Community Theatre, it’s a special adventure.
The Culture Buzz theatre reviews are written by professional writers to inform and enlighten. To receive weekly newsletters, email TheCultureBuzz@gmail.com or visit www.TheCultureBuzz.com. The Culture Buzz is a weekly broadcast/streaming arts & entertainment collection of conversations, airing Wednesdays 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Central Time on KFMG 98.9 FM and streaming at www.kfmg.org.