In the frantically funny farce Don’t Dress for Dinner, so many lies are built upon lies, the characters start lying about the lies themselves.
That’s all part of main character Bernard’s elaborate scheme to spend the weekend with his lover, thinking his wife’s gone to visit her mother. He’ll stop at nothing to keep his secret — even using his best friend Robert as an unwilling alibi. But little does Bernard know that his wife also has a secret up her sleeve.
At Weathervane Playhouse, leading man Richard Worswick is a lovable louse as Bernard, who gleefully plans a rendezvous at his country home outside of Paris with paramour Suzanne. He’s even hired a gourmet chef named Suzette.
There’s a lot cooking in this tangled tale of attempted infidelity, but it’s not actually gourmet food in the kitchen.
Scott Davis’ character Robert is an unwelcome party to Bernard’s deception, mainly because he’s got a hidden agenda of his own. Of course, confusion ensues in playwright Marc Camoletti’s 1987 comedy of mistaken identities.
Directed by Marc Moritz, Weathervane’s six-person cast performs this exaggerated French farce with a wink, making the whole thing come across as one big gag.
Worswick’s voice becomes hysterically high-pitched as Bernard goes into panic mode, having to improvise fast when he realizes his wife’s not leaving for the weekend.
Davis is mopey as the put-upon Robert; Bernadette Hisey is grumpily jealous yet randy as Bernard’s wife, Jacqueline; and Dede Klein has a sparkle in her eye as Bernard’s mistress, Suzanne. Just the sight gag of the short Worswick embracing the taller, glamorous Klein in high heels is a hoot.
In this fast-moving farce, characters hold furtive, quick conversations behind others’ backs and almost get caught coming on to each other. They also repeatedly start to blurt things out that would compromise their relationships.
The timing has to be perfect for this humor to be carried off, and the actors are spot-on under Moritz’s direction.
Added to this tale about two pairs of secret lovers is unwitting chef Suzette, who’s pressed into posing as Robert’s girlfriend. Things fall apart even more when Suzanne shows up and has to pretend to be the cook.
As Suzette, Ashley Bossard is a stitch as her character slowly warms to the others’ game, extorting money from the men every step of the way to keep up the charade. In some of the play’s funniest moments, Suzette begins to truly enjoy the ruse and throws herself into it wholeheartedly.
Also memorable is Bossard’s onstage costume change, where the men literally rip part of her cook’s outfit off her — her back to the audience — to create a sexy clothing transformation.
In this delightfully naughty comedy, peppered with sexual innuendo, the men inevitably start to turn on each other.
They shout out things out like “the hooker as a cooker” in reference to model Suzanne posing as a cook and “the model with a waddle” to describe the real cook, Suzette, posing as the model.
Justyn Jaymes has designed an attractively rustic set to represent Bernard and Jacqueline’s country living room, converted from an old barn. Adding to the humor are references to the guest rooms as the piggery and cattle shed.
Camoletti, best known for his classic farce Boeing-Boeing, saw Don’t Dress for Dinner run two years in Paris and six years in London before its Broadway production in 2012, which earned two Tony nominations.
On the Weathervane stage, this farce — whose humor lies in its recipe for disaster — provides a winning night of entertainment.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.