After producing the successful Boeing-Boeing, Aurora Theatre is staging another of Marc Camoletti’s farces with Don’t Dress for Dinner. Set outside of Paris in 1931, the play is a traditional farce with mistaken identities, people going in and out of doors, multiple plot twists and physical humor.
Jacqueline (Maria Rodriguez-Sager) is about to visit her mother, and her husband Bernard (Bryan Brendle) anxiously waits for her to leave. He has been looking forward to a special evening with a model name Suzanne (Kelly Criss) while his wife is at her mother’s. However, Robert (Daniel Hilton), the couple’s best man, wants to visit while he is town as well. Upon hearing that news, Jaqueline, longing for a secret rendezvous with Robert, changes her plans to stay at home.
In order to make sure the evening will be special, Bernard has hired a cook named Suzette (Shelli Delgado) to create an exceptional meal, but her arrival has become an afterthought now that all the plans have changed. Bernard expecting the arrival of Suzanne tells Robert to tell Jacqueline that she is his lover, and he reluctantly agrees. Only, Suzette arrives first, and havoc ensues.
Aurora’s production of the comedy boasts several hilarious moments, but ultimately, it feels like it never hits its stride. While the cast is talented, for some reason, they don’t seem to have gelled well, which detracts from the show. Nor, do they play off of their comedic strengths. This type of comedy needs a cast with great chemistry.
Directed by George Contini, the show is perfectly precise. Technically, the show is flawless. There in, though, the foundation of the show begins crack. The show doesn’t feel spontaneous, and for a farce to ultimately work best, it needs to feel like it is unrehearsed. For example, nothing looks natural when Hilton walks into the split door and falls to the floor.
While each of the cast members give a solid performance, none are as remarkable as Delgado, who is nothing short of fabulous in the role of Suzette. Whether it is her facial expressions, body language, vocal tones or slapstick comedy, she creates a memorable character that commands the audience’s attention.
The set, designed by Lizz Dorsey, works well and looks wonderful, as do Amanda Edgerton’s period costumes. The lighting design by Mary Parker and Angie Bryant’s sound design compliment the production.
The show’s weaknesses do not detract from the fact that Don’t Dress for Dinner is witty, superbly written and enjoyable. You will find yourself laughing throughout the show. The production runs through May 25, 2014 at Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theatre. For tickets and more information, please see the theater’s website. The show’s runtime is a little over two hours with an intermission.
– Kenny Norton