Mistresses, Lovers, and Cooks. Oh My!

Last night we went to see Don’t Dress for Dinner at the Rep East Playhouse in Newhall. The show is your typical British farce about mistresses and lovers. Here’s how the Lucilla Dramatic Society summarized the plot: Set in a converted farmhouse in the French countryside, ‘Don’t Dress for Dinner” begins when when Jacqueline (no one seems to have surnames in this play!) decides to visit her mother for a few days. At this point, her husband, Bernard sees the opportunity of a cosy weekend with his new girlfriend. His bachelor pal, Robert rings up to announce his return from Hong Kong, so Bernard invites him along as his alibi, also hiring a Cordon Bleu cook to ensure they don’t go hungry. Convinced his plan is foolproof, Bernard is taking his wife’s suitcase out to the car, when the phone rings and she answers it. From then on the story moves into the surreal world of high-speed farce, with mistaken identity — two girls, both known as Suzy; clandestine relationships,. the wife has a secret lover; hasty improvisation, the cook must play the mistress and vice versa, all carried along on a stream of rapid-fire, double-meaning dialogue. One impossible situation piles on another, as the hapless Robert finds himself the target of amorous attentions from all three ladies, Bernard tries frantically to salvage at least a scrap of illicit bliss from the wreckage of his weekend, and his intended playmate, the glamorous Suzanne, ends up in the kitchen, expected to cook dinner, while Suzette, the cook, is transformed into a femme fatale!

So how did the Rep East do? Those who know farce know that it is one of the hardest genres to do (a good example is the play, later movie, Noises Off!). It requires absolute memorization of the material, and split second timing. This cast was about 80% there. There were a few points where the timing was off, there was hesitation, etc. It was still fun, and of course, I was really enjoying watching the actresses, especially Jacqueline (Susan Biesinger) and Kristen Paige (Suzette). You could tell the actors were really having fun with this one.

Don’t Dress for Dinner is an older play, written by Marc Camoletti, adapted by Robin Hawdon. It has a tremendous entertainment track record. Before playing in theaters all over the U.S., it began as Marc Camoletti’s French play “Pajamas for Six” which played for two years in Paris. Beginning in 1991, Robin Hawdon’s English adaptation kept audiences howling for six years in London. The Rep East production starred Susan Biesinger, Julie Ann Lowery, JJ Mayes, Kristen Paige, Bill Quin, and Steven “Nanook” Burkholder. It was directed by Jason Goldberg.

Next up: Sherlock Holmes: The Final Aventure at the Pasadena Playhouse next weekend. After that is Shakespeare in the Park: Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark, being done by the Rep East Playhouse the weekends of June 10 and 17 in Central Park of Santa Clarita.