Ooh la la!
Don't Dress for Dinner is an amuse-bouche that ends the Lantern Theater's 24th season. It is a French farce by Marc Camoletti, adapted by Robin Hawdon and directed by Kathryn MacMillan.
The plot involves a married English couple living in a country house near Paris. Bernard (William Zielinski) and Jacqueline (Karen Peakes) are about to have a very complicated dinner party. Bernard's best friend, Robert (Marc LeVasseur), who is also Jacqueline's secret lover, arrives unexpectedly, just when Bernard is expecting his secret mistress, Suzanne (Jessica Bedford), for a dirty weekend.
A French Cordon Bleu cook, Suzette (Lee Minora), has been hired from an agency. After a long, drunken, flirty evening, filled with elaborate and ever more preposterous explanations as they try to hide the truth of their complicated liaisons from one another, Georges (Chris Anthony), also a chef, arrives to drive his wife home, only to discover her in a slinky black dress tangoing with Robert.
If you're looking for a truly naughty and shocking sex farce, look further. But Meghan Jones' set provides the requisite multiple doors (five is bare minimum), and the costumes by Alison Roberts are parodically comical, especially the silk pajamas in which the guys spend Act 2. Peakes looks sensational as she changes into something less comfortable (those shoes!) after dinner, and her timing is superb. ("Oh, I see." Beat. "No, I don't.")
Lee Minora's French accent is ow you say, ilarioos while Chris Anthony's French accent is, ow you say, zexy. Minora's seemingly improvised explanation that all their carryings-on were not an orgy but a game called "Happy Families" is a comic highlight.
Some of the shtick works (the soda-squirting) and some doesn't (the physical fights between the men) — fight director J. Alex Cordaro had his hands full, and these actors are very good at loud fake slaps.
The program notes quote this delightful line by Michael Arditti, writing in The [London] Times: "In English farce adultery is unacceptable; in French it's simply expensive." As an English adaptation of a French comedy, Don't Dress for Dinner manages to be both. I'm not sure I'd award this show the Cordon Bleu, but it is a light, tasty dish on a summery evening if you're not too hungry.