The Zany French Comedy “Don’t Dress for Dinner”

THEATRE JACKSONVILLE REVIEW

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Theatre Jacksonville opened its fourth production of the season on April 24, 2015 with the zany French comedy “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” which will be on the stage through May 9, 2015 at 2032 San Marco Avenue.

This infidelity comedy is from the pen of Marc Camoletti and is a follow-up to his “Boeing-Boeing” which was seen in the area last year at Douglas Anderson and in 2012 at St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre. Like Camoletti’s earlier play, it also is a farce, with the same two main characters. Bernard has married and lives in a cozy home close to Paris, in a renovated house that was once part of a dairy farm. The home has all those entrances and exits that farces require. Technical Director/Scenic Designer David Lynn Dawson has fashioned a lavish set, which is continental down to the rosewood-framed upholstered couch.

The playwright gets right to the point, rather than indulging in prolonged exposition. At the onset, we learn that Jacqueline, Bernard’s wife, is leaving for the weekend to visit her mother, who is ill. Bernard, who was elated when she relayed her plans, has made arrangements for his mistress Suzanne to visit for a roll in the hay. He has also invited his best friend Robert over, reasoning that the neighbors won’t question why Suzanne is staying overnight when his wife is elsewhere, as they will assume Robert and Suzanne are visiting together as a couple.

When Jacqueline learns that Robert is expected, she decides to cancel her trip and stay home. We quickly learn that Robert and Jacqueline have been secret lovers for some time and are thrilled about the opportunity for a liaison. However, to conceal his affair with Suzanne from his wife, Bernard persuades Robert to agree to pretend that Suzanne is his mistress when she arrives.

As you can see this stew (farce) is really coming along but wait, there is another ingredient (person) to add to the mix. Bernard has made arrangements through an agency to hire Suzette, a Cordon Bleu Chef to prepare a lavish dinner. When she arrives, Robert begins introducing her as his mistress, as he has mistaken her for Bernard’s mistress. This behavior confuses Jacqueline and leads to complications. Without further explanation, you can see that an evening with a twisting plot filled with relentless comic energy is on the way.

The play is directed by Samuel Fisher, who has been in constant demand as a director since returning to his native Jacksonville a few seasons back. He can do it all, from classics and drama to comedy and musicals. His impressive resume includes “Amadeus” with the Jacksonville Symphony, “Reefer Madness” at Players by the Sea, and the recent rock opera “La Caroline.” Mr. Fisher has an outstanding cast in this show.

As Bernard the capricious husband, Jay Bilderback returns to Theatre Jacksonville after his fabulous performance in the leading role in “Figaro.” Jay, besides having a marvelous voice, has the ability to speak volumes with his body language and facial gestures.

Playing his wife Jacqueline, the attractive Amy Leone is making her community theatre debut with this role. Her previous stage experience was with the University of North Florida. Amy is charming as the wife, who is a bit deceitful herself.

Dana Johnson, as the good-looking cook Suzette, is appearing on stage in her first ever theatre performance and is remarkably good in a demanding role. As Suzette, she quickly catches on to the game the two men are cooking up and becomes the imposter they need but at a price; more money, a lot more. Her additional payments from both men come to 1,200 francs and a designer fur coat. In real life, Dana is a classical pianist.

Suzanne, Bernard’s mistress is portrayed by Jessica Alexander, who is picture-perfect for the role in which she is both sexy and very funny. This is her first time on Theatre Jacksonville’s stage but we have seen and her husband Jimmy together in many musicals including “Rent,” “Reefer Madness,” and “The Full Monty.” Mrs. Alexander will be seen in an upcoming production of the “The Rocky Horror Show“in August here in Jacksonville.

Robert, Bernard’s pal, is portrayed by another actor in a Theatre Jacksonville debut. We like to think we discovered Jeffrey Rommel when he previously appeared at Orange Park Community Theatre in a supporting role in “Murder Among Friends” last October. Earlier this year, he appeared as a marvelous leading man, as the rustic Toby in “A Toby Show,” which was a big hit at OPCT. As Robert, Mr. Rommel displays his superb comic talents, as something of an underdog who allows himself to be exploited by his playboy friend.

Neal Thorburn as George makes a late entrance to the action as the irate husband of one of the two visiting ladies (we won’t tell which one). He is quite convincing as he blows his top at the antics in Bernard’s home. We have seen Mr. Thorburn on stage since his days as a student at Stanton Prep, a few years ago. He absolutely blew us away with his comic lunatic portrayals of Bazile and Antonio in last season’s “Figaro.”

The technical production team included: Sabrina Rockwell (Stage Manager), Tracy Olin (Costume Design), Garth Kennedy (Assistant Technical Director), Audie Gibson (Light Board Operator), and Spencer Carr (Sound Board Operator)

With the fine performances of this ensemble cast and the skillful direction by Samuel Fisher, be prepared for two hours of farcical fun. There are plenty of zinger one-liners and comebacks in a show that has no ambition beyond charm and fun, fun, fun. Don’t miss it. For tickets and additional information, call 904-396-4425 or visit theatrejax.org.

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

october, 2021

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