Just Desserts at the Cape Playhouse with "Don't Dress for Dinner"

Left to right: Lenise Soren, Kevin Spirtas and Colleen Quinlan. Photo courtesy of Kathleen A. Fahle.

by Maggie Kulbokas

What a season for the Cape Playhouse--each show this summer was a resounding success including the season finale "Don't Dress for Dinner" now playing through September 10th.

If the season was a meal, "Don't Dress for Dinner" would be the dessert. "Don't Dress" was a fast-paced, comedic romp. A comedic romp about adultery you say? Well it is French. And really, what elicits a more urgent need for diversion, double talk and deception than adultery?

Playwright Marc Camoletti's  Pyjamas pour Six premiered in Paris at the Theatre Michel in 1985.  It enjoyed great success running for two years; six hundred and fifty performances. It then proved to be a big hit with a six year run in London before making the hop across the pond with â??Donâ??t Dress for Dinnerâ?, novelist and playwright Robin Hawdon's adaptation of the original.

"Don't Dress for Dinner" is as twisty and sleek as a French braid. Simply put, it is the story of a husband, a wife, a mistress, a best friend and the cook. Okay, so it's not that simple.

The curtain opens on a well-appointed living room. Set designer Richard Chambers did a magnificent job evoking the look and feel of a converted barn in the French countryside. The room was decorated with a couch, coffee table, side tables, a stone fireplace, chandelier and full bar. An exposed post and beam ceiling gives the stage an open, solid feel. We learn a bit later that the country cottage was indeed a barn at one time: guest bedroom one is the cowery, bedroom two is the piggery, the dining room the hen house, the kitchen the dairy and the hay loft, the master suite.

In the living room we find the husband, Bernard, anxiously straightening the room. He seems nervous and expectant. And has every right to be as he tries to stop his wife's departure and Suzanne, his mistress' arrival from overlapping. This first scene feels like the slow chug up the incline on a rollercoaster. It builds and builds until you reach the top and dive dramatically into dips and twirls--the rest of the show.

Just as Bernard thinks his wife Jacqueline is finally out the door she answers a phone call from a catering company--a call that plants the seeds of distrust in her mind. Why would her husband who will be staying home alone for the weekend with a freezer full of defrostables require the services of a professional cook called Suzette? Jacqueline decides to stay and from there on, each new character is drawn into a web of slip-ups, slapstick and one too many Suzies.

The cast works wonderfully together as secrets beget secrets and accusations require deeper fabrications and alibis. Take four people, each with something to hide, and an innocent bystander and you've got quite a show. Bernard, played by Sam Freed of stage and screen, gives a fine performance, as does Dee Hoty as Jacqueline. Hoty, who most recently starred on Broadway in "Mamma Mia!" and Freed are consummate professionals who handle their quick and complicated lines with ease. Kevin Spirtas keeps up with them as Robert, Bernard's best friend. Lenise Soren as Suzanne the mistress is a striking beauty who adds a little something spicy to this weekend recipe for disaster. And last, and most definitely not least, Colleen Quinlan is an absolute hoot as Suzette the cook. Can the wily weekenders get Suzette to play along? Just wait and see.

Director James Brennan did a wonderful job of keeping the show moving. The actors use every square inch of the stage keeping up a physical pace that matches the quick and clever dialogue.

How does it end? Who finds out about whom? It's a tough one for even the most seasoned detective--"Don't Dress for Dinner" has more red herrings than an Agatha Christie paperback.

Treat yourself to a visually appealing show, brimming with quirky, funny dialogue--worthy of a Broadway stage.

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