Diners look for lovers in flighty farce

Gordon Jones
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With a satisfyingly realistic drawing-room set, "Don’t Dress for Dinner" is a broad farce about marital cheating, written in 1987 by French playwright Marc Canoletti.

In a renovated farmhouse near Paris, three married couples mingle symmetrically, with the cocktail bar much in demand.

Bernard’s wife, poised and soigné Jacqueline (Sabrina Roberts), takes Robert (Phil Goodridge, with megawatt smile) for her lover, a charming 30-something accountant with two cats, while her husband (Glenn Gaulton) is cosy with an elegant mistress, Suzanne (Renee Dumaresque).

Then there is the ditzy, red-haired cook, sexy Suzette (Jill Kennedy), the mainspring of the show, who hits outrageously on the bar and on the men, until her jealous and possessive chef-husband (David Hallett) finally arrives to take her home.

Frenetic action

As in most drawing-room/bedroom farces, action is fast and furious, light and flighty, if remarkably implausible.

The good-sized opening-night audience was evidently tickled by the play’s frenetic action and by strong and varied characterization. Don’t bother about fathoming the combinations: just relax and enjoy the complications.

While the cute play does not quite overwhelm, six intelligent and skilful comedic actors giving it their all are highly impressive.

The company is to be applauded for bringing to St. John’s and to Newfoundland what is surely the first production of a play by Canoletti, performed with panache by a high-powered cast.

Mounted by Joint Productions, directed by Ian Campbell and designed by Alix Reynolds, Marc Canoletti’s hexagonal farce, "Don’t Dress for Dinner," continues until Sunday in the Barbara Barrett Theatre of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, with 8 p.m. as curtain time and a 2 p.m. PWYC matinee on Saturday. Running time, including intermission, is about two hours.

Organizations: Barbara Barrett Theatre

Geographic location: Paris, Newfoundland

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