Port Tobacco Players presentation of Don't Dress for Dinner
 
La Plata, MD – Don’t Dress For Dinner, a two-act comedy by French playwright Marc Camoletti, adapted by Robin Hawdon, opens at the Port Tobacco Playhouse in La Plata Friday, Jan. 20 and runs through February 5. This production is made possible by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

Don’t Dress For Dinner is directed by David Standish and produced by Carol Charnock. (Matt Jones is Assistant Director). Marc Camoletti is also the playwright of Boeing-Boeing; he has crafted a similar farce here with complex relationships and revolving love affairs. Don’t Dress For Dinner premiered in 1987 in France, then opened in London in 1991 and ran there for six years. It opened on Broadway in 2012.
To quote Director Standish’s program notes when asked what the show is about: “It’s a comedy about adultery. A husband and wife are both cheating on each other and everyone ends up under the same roof one night…I sincerely hope this show makes you laugh.” And that about sums it up. It is likely that the audience will find it impossible not to laugh at the ridiculously complicated plot brought to life by PTP’s talented cast. The actual intricacies of the plot are almost superfluous and are impossible to adequately convey here; the joy comes in watching the performers cope with each new situation. David Standish has directed an amazing ensemble which reacts with precision to interpret each nuance of the script.

The setting is the main living-room of a renovated farmhouse located about two hours from Paris. The newly-refurbished rooms still retain their former designations such as the “hen house,” the “cow shed” and the “piggery.”

Following is but a brief synopsis of the tomfoolery. The curtain opens on Act I’s early evening to reveal a stunningly-furnished living room; the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace dominates the stage. There is an oversize sofa at center, and a well-stocked bar stage left which the characters visit often. The stairs leading to upstairs bedrooms are at stage right, and the “cow shed” and “piggery” are accessed through stage left doors. The kitchen is off-stage right, and the door to outside is at the very back. (The only drawback to the ample sofa is that actors and stage business are at times blocked from the audience’s view). Jacqueline (Susan Claggett), the wife, is stylishly dressed and is preparing to leave to visit her mom for the weekend. Unbeknownst to her, this will leave husband Bernard (Neil Twohig) free to entertain his mistress, Suzanne (Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez), a model who is en route from Paris. He has hired a professional cook—Suzette (Susan Fischer)—through an agency, and has invited his friend, Robert (Anthony Dieguez), to dinner as his “cover” story. Add to this mix the fact that Robert and Jacqueline are lovers, unbeknownst to Bernard.

Jacqueline becomes suspicious that something is “up” when she answers the phone and learns that the cook is on her way. She decides to tell Bernard her mom has taken ill and that she’s cancelling her trip. When Robert arrives, Bernard fills him in on how the evening was supposed to go (he would have been romancing Suzanne) and convinces Robert to tell Jacqueline that “Suzy” is his girlfriend.
The pace of the play seems slow at first, but this only a temporary illusion. With each new character’s entrance, the tension and the momentum increase. Anthony Dieguez is over-the-top hysterically funny from the very second he makes his entrance as the just-a-bit-befuddled friend of the couple (and the best man at their wedding). Highlights of the show involve watching Mr. Dieguez twist himself into-and-out-of pretzel shapes mirroring the plot’s twists and turns. The two male characters, Bernard and Robert, contrast well with each other – the master-planner Bernard, and the panicked Robert – as they wrestle on the sofa over possession of the telephone as the deception is launched.

Jacqueline (Mrs. Claggett) indulges in thrilling vocal histrionics (a technique she continues to employ throughout the evening to great effect) when Bernard reveals Robert’s mistress is on her way to the farmhouse. Jacqueline and Bernard depart for town to pick up the evening’s supply of groceries leaving Robert totally limp from his exhausting non-verbal maneuvers, wondering how he’s going to survive the weekend. Then in this brief moment of calm, he realizes that he’s now alone in the house. Just as it begins to dawn on him that this would be the perfect opportunity for him to escape, “Suzy” rings the doorbell. Only this “Suzy” is Suzette – the cook – and not Suzanne, the Parisian model who is Bernard’s mistress. So, in sashays Susan Fischer as “Suzy” (Suzette, the cook) with her charming county-girl French accent and sassy personality.
If you find yourself confused by all the “Suzy’s” at this point in the plot, imagine how Director Standish and the actors must have felt during rehearsals having all of the “Susans” (actresses Susan Claggett and Susan Fischer) in addition to all the character “Suzys” (Suzette and Suzanne”) onstage at the same time. Now that must have been truly hilarious. Robert explains the pertinent details of the pretense for the evening, requesting her cooperation, and she agrees – for 100 euros – up front, mais oui! And since Robert doesn’t realize which Suzy has just arrived, he introduces Suzette as his girlfriend upon Bernard’s and Jacqueline’s return believing her to be Bernard’s mistress, Suzanne. So now it’s Bernard’s turn to have a meltdown.
The situation is now thus: Bernard is boiling mad about the mistake on Robert’s part, and Jacqueline is hurt because she thought she was Robert’s exclusive mistress. When Jacqueline leaves the room, Bernard and Robert straighten out with Suzy who she really is (the cook) but this is not revealed to Jacqueline. When Jaqueline finally gets to have it out with Robert about Suzy, he tells her that Suzette is his niece and that the “niece” story is his alibi for the tryst with Jacqueline occurring right under Bernard’s nose. At each new development, Suzette extracts another 100 euros from either Bernard or Robert to compensate her for the pleasure of her cooperation. And then Bernard’s real mistress shows up–the glamourous Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez as Suzanne, gorgeously costumed in a red dress and an expensive Chanel coat (worth 10,000 euros – and Bernard should know that, because he gave it to her!). Kaitelyn’s Suzy (Suzanne) is sophisticated and elegant – with a French accent to match. Quite naturally, she becomes highly insulted when informed by Bernard that she will be posing as the cook for the night. To the tune of another 100 euros, Bernard privately reviews the “plan” with Suzette – she will pose as Robert’s girlfriend for the evening and she is to consider herself a guest in the house. Bernard has to cough up 400 euros to Suzette to get her to change the location of her bedroom from the cow shed to the piggery. And in a clever bit of wardrobe-wizardry, Bernard and Robert undress and re-dress Suzette right before the audience’s startled eyes so that she is properly costumed to look like the guest she is supposed to be. At last –blessedly! – dinner is served and the curtain closes on Act I.

After a brief Intermission, Act II resumes just a mere two hours after Act I ended. Everyone has miraculously survived dinner (Suzanne, the real mistress who is now posing as the cook) cannot cook, and Suzette – the real Cordon-Bleu-trained cook – has tried to assist in the kitchen even though she is now “officially” a guest.) The already complex plot becomes even more so pretty quickly.  Some of the Act II shenanigans include: Robert and Suzette tango-ing; Jacqueline squirting seltzer water with deadly aim; a tete-a-tete between Suzanne and Jacqueline; Suzette continuing to accumulate euros; snapping ice tongs; Robert growing more manic by the minute with appropriate kinesic contortions; the determination that there are, indeed, too many “Suzys” in the house.

Suzette confesses that she has a jealous husband, George, who will kill any suspected lover. This, against all odds, actually proves to be true as the audience learns when George (Greg Rumpf) arrives to pick up his wife and take her home. Mr. Rumpf (a PTP veteran, known for many roles including Tevye in Fiddler On the Roof) brings a welcome level of calm and authority, demonstrating complete command of his role complete with a subtle French accent. Finally, thanks to George’s pointed questions and the result of a meticulously-staged “fight” scene (thanks to Fight Choreographer Chad Mildenstein), the truth comes out (at least selected parts of it) when Suzette claims that the entire evening has simply been a parlor game not unlike “Charades.” George leaves with his wife, Suzette, the cook; the married couple (Jacqueline and Bernard) goes upstairs to bed; and it is left to Robert in the cow shed and Suzanne in the piggery to deliver the evening’s final “zinger”.

Real-life husband-and-wife team Kaitelyn and Anthony Dieguez are perfectly cast; both give polished, professional performances. (Listen for Kaitelyn’s enchanting French-accented pronunciation of the word “who”). 

NTP veteran Neil Twohig is completely convincing as the scheming husband, Bernard. Mr. Twohig is an experienced actor not only with NPT but also in productions with Hard Bargain Players, the Tantallon Players, and those in regional commercials and TV. 

Stage Manager Steve Claggett’s most recent PTP production was The Westing Game. Assistant Stage Manager Erica Klonkowski enjoys the opportunity the fine arts afford her to de-stress. Set Designer and Master Carpenter (kudos for the stone fireplace!) has designed and built over 40 sets for PTP. Jeff Merritt, also set designer and master carpenter celebrates his 47th year with PTP. Light Designer is Ted DeMarco-Logue who last worked with Dave Standish on The Westing Game. Hats off to Costume Designer Pat Brennan for outfitting this cast so wonderfully. Pat has received seven WATCH nominations for Outstanding Costume Design for PTP.  Hair and Makeup Designer Sheila Hyman has previously worked with Dave Standish. Set Decorator Christine Schubert has also worked with Dave previously at PTP. Properties were by Mary DeMarco-Logue. Kecia L. Robinson was Dialect Coach.

Also contributing to the production staff were: John Merritt (Set Designer and Master Carpenter), assisted by Larry Danielle, Amanda Kaiser, Joe Kaiser, Jason Klonkowski, Sam Prestige and Tom Schubert, April Dawn Weimer (Light Hanger), Kaila Heeter (Lightboard Operator), Chris Cease (Sound Engineer), Karen Kleyle (Assistant Properties Designer), Ben Simpson (Choreographer) Kimberly Ball (House Manager) and Quality Printers (program printing).

The theatre is located at 508 Charles Street in La Plata, MD 20646. For tickets and for more information concerning Don’t Dress For Dinner, you may call the PTP Box Office at 301-932-6819 or you may contact www.ptplayers.com. Bon Appetit!