One of the best things you can say about an evening at the theater is that you couldn’t hear all the dialogue because the audience’s laughter drowned out the words.
“I’m going to have to see this again,” said one happy theater-goer, still chuckling and wiping tears from his eyes, during intermission on opening night of Don’t Dress for Dinner at Quogue’s Hampton Theatre Company.
Playwright Marc Camoletti is better-known for his Coffee, Tea, or Me-style classic French farce Boeing-Boeing, set in the swinging ‘60s, and Don’t Dress for Dinner continues in the same vein, albeit some years later, and features two of the same characters — Bernard and Robert — who apparently haven’t learned much over the past two decades or so.
Camoletti’s original Pyjama Pour Six was masterfully rewritten by British actor and playwright Robin Hawdon, who interjected a bit of fast-paced “Fawlty Towers” British humor and awkwardness into the already turbo-charged script.
Don’t Dress for Dinner is set on an evening in the French countryside, where Bernard is packing his wife off to see her mother, while arranging for his mistress, a Parisian model named Suzanne, or Suzy, and his best friend Robert, as a “beard,” to visit for the weekend. He has also hired a Cordon Bleu chef to cook for them named — wait for it — Suzette, also known as Suzy.
But when Bernard’s wife, Jacqueline, hears that Robert — her secret lover — is coming for the weekend, she changes her plans and decides to stay, leaving Bernard scrambling to pile lie upon uproarious lie, bringing Robert, Suzanne, and Suzette along for the ride.
Two Suzies? Two affairs? Which lie has been told to whom? You might lose track, but with the sidesplitting chops of HTC veterans Andrew Botsford as the scheming Bernard and Matthew Conlon as the befuddled Robert, you won’t really care. It’s all fun when these two go at each other, either with words, or, in several scenes, with fists and phone wires.
And it’s really okay, you see, to have mistresses and lovers and lie to your partner — because it’s set in France.
Rosemary Cline gets to portray Jacqueline, the wronged wife who is also enmeshed in her own peccadillo, with grace, style, and humor. Rebecca Edana is Bernard’s chic, mink-lined Suzanne, who has to pretend she is the chef, and of course, can’t cook worth a lick. And newcomer Sam Yarabek gets a fun turn as a psychopathic visitor during the evening’s delightful denouement.
But it is Amanda Griemsmann as the chef, Suzette, convinced to take the part of Robert’s mistress, who is the real star of this strong ensemble production. Playing the cynical French domestic who doesn’t seem to be a bit surprised at anything these crazy rich people cook up, Griemsmann provides the perfect foil for the sharp-witted shenanigans of the upper set. George Loizides, an HTC regular, directs the hilarious hijinks with a deft hand.
If you are seeking subtle nuance and underplayed innuendo, this is not the production for you. But if you are looking for a bawdy, mile-a-minute French farce full of silliness and confusion, go see Don’t Dress for Dinner at Hampton Theatre Company, 125 Jessup Avenue, through June 10. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.hamptontheatre.org.