May 9, 2003


Don't Dress for Dinner

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning











For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

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Barebones Theatre Groupís production of the French farce Donít Dress for Dinner is a cut above the usual farcical offering. Thankfully, the piece has been reset in New England, which allows the blissful avoidance of bad European accents commonly found on Charlotte stages. Director Lon Bumgarner successfully elicits more than the usual stereotypical performances often expected from characters in this genre.

The comedic set-up is ridiculous enough to require constant deception. Jacqueline is married to Bernard, who is friends with Robert. Unbeknownst to Bernard, Robert is crazy about Jacqueline. Unbeknownst to Jacqueline, Bernard is nuts about Suzanne. When Jacqueline decides to spend the weekend at her motherís, Bernard decides to spend it with Suzanne. But then Robert drops in, and Jacqueline cancels her trip, and a zany cook named Suzette arrives. What ensues is a jumble of lies regarding identities and relationships.

This play is particularly clever due to Chandler McIntyreís wonderful performance in the role of Suzette. As a cook-for-hire, Suzette doesnít have personal relationships with any of the deceptive characters. So they all use her to try and make their own lies work, while inadvertently letting her in on the joke. McIntyre packs Suzetteís character with dopey innocence, inherent sweetness, and a good-time-gal attitude that makes her game for anything. In her various incarnations she is funnier as a breathy Barbie Doll than as a looped Southern belle. But as the action builds so does her hilarity, and it is contagious, regardless of what role she is playing.

Mark Scarboro is exceptional as Robert, who has been asked to play an adulterous role he can neither abide nor defend. He masters the art of flustered expression. His voice ranges from a squawk to a squeak has he expresses his unjustified outrage. He seethes and sputters, while his large waggling hands define his sense of panic from moment to moment. Scarboro wears the confused, yet determined expression of a five year old caught in a hopeless lie. He and Bernard, played by Brian Lafontaine, regularly partake in well-executed bouts of rapid-fire repartee.

Barbi VanSchaick must have had a great time piecing together costumes including Suzanneís white faux fur parka with a leopard-patterned hood worn over a fuchsia Powerpuff Girls t-shirt. The Barebones set had more meat on it than usual, with a tastefully decorated living room complete with chenille throws and a CD rack.

The trouble with farces is that the plot gets so convoluted it is almost impossible for the playwright to find a graceful way out. This play is no exception, though the ending is mercifully quick, and therefore doesnít spoil what precedes it.

Lynn Trenning, May 9, 2003

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