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Don't Dress for Dinner
a British Farce
by Robin Hawdon

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 3137

SHOWING : September 26, 2008 - October 19, 2008



Bernard is planning a weekend with his chic Parisian mistress in a French farmhouse. He has arranged for a cordon bleu cook to prepare gourmet delights, is packing his wife Jacqueline off to her mother's, and has even invited his best friend, Robert to provide the alibi. It's foolproof; what could possibly go wrong? Suppose Robert turns up not knowing why he has been invited? Suppose that Robert and Jacqueline are secret lovers? Suppose the cook is mistaken for the mistress and the mistress is unable to cook? An evening of hilarious confusion ensues, from the same man who brought us “Perfect Wedding.”

Director Robert Egizio
Sound Design Dan Bauman
Stage Manager Pamela Cassiday
Scenic Design Chuck Welcome
Lighting Design John David Williams
Suzanne Kelly Criss
Bernard Bobby Labartino
Robert David Greely Limbach
George Derek Randall
Jacqueline Rachel Richards
Suzette Kelly Young
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Farce At Its Finest!
by line!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
It’s Fall and farce is in the air!

The leaves are falling and so are pants, skirts, blouses, and jaws!

Farce (British farce in particular) seems to be the favorite fare of many of our local theatres at this time of year. The problem for me is that it is so seldom done well (let alone correctly). Often productions lack the timing, desperation and high energy required for farce. Others mistakenly substitute slapstick (example: Aurora’s “Noises Off”) or slow the pace down (example: Georgia Shakes “Loot”). Productions like that, while still enjoyable, never reach their full potential in my opinion. Farce is all about physical and verbal rhythms and timing. When it is done correctly, it is an absolute blast to watch!

Stage Door’s current production of Robin Hawdon’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner” is that rarest of exceptions: not only is it very well done, it is also done correctly! It is a fast paced, fun filled, festival of flagrant frenetic silliness!

Key to this production’s success is its casting. Bobby Labartino as the duplicitous Bernard sets the bar high for this production. He sustains his impressive energy and timing throughout the show. His performance is the engine that drives this show, but never lets it run off the rails by upstaging or stealing focus. David Limbach is the perfect yin to Bobby’s yang. His performance is hilarious as the bewildered best friend (and comic foil) that is suckered, bullied and bandied about relentlessly by all the other characters. He plays bewildered and “put upon” with a reserved style that perfectly balances Bobby’s over-the-top scheming and manipulating. Together they make a wonderfully comic “Mutt and Jeff” combination.

The triumvirate of women in this show makes an incredibly impressive line-up! Kelly A. Young, Kelly Criss and Rachel Richards do a magnificent job of playing smart, playing dumb, playing along and being playful! Their combined talents for physical and verbal comedy were totally on the mark and their timing, delivery and pacing were also “spot on”! Women characters in farce are typically “eye candy” and stereotypes which can be “demeaning” to some actors, but these ladies aren’t afraid to embrace their roles with vigor and enthusiasm! They are each a joy to watch (and all are pretty easy on the eyes as well)!

Derek Randall rounds out the cast with his portrayal of George, the big, dumb, macho husband of the cook. The fact the he is neither big nor dumb, doesn’t stop him from delivering a winning performance.

One of the most impressive features of this production is the amount of detail director Robert Egizio has managed to incorporate into this show. There are sublime bits of business and perfectly nuanced gems of verbal comedy, not just rampant silliness (but there is also a fair amount of that mind you). The use of space in this show is both clever and interesting with blocking that is never static and definitely never boring. Egizio wisely built this production true to the genre of farce with high energy performances, fast paced action and split second timing. It is the work of a master in his element.

Chuck Welcome continues to amaze me with his set designs! Just when I thought I had seen the best he ever did, he tops that! This set is a wonderful blend of colors, textures, depth and layers. It serves the material and the actors exquisitely. The attention to detail in the set design and dressing is very impressive (the stair railing with wrought iron balusters, instead of wood ones, was a particularly appropriate, and refreshing, design choice). Knowing that he does this on an extremely small budget just increases my respect for his talent and skill.

The script by Robin Hawdon is a by-the-numbers farce with nothing particularly unique. It has lots of the standard double entendres, mistaken identities, scheming and stereotypical characters. That being said, it is well crafted and well suited to its genre (to quote whoever said it: “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.”). Thank God it wasn’t trying to be anything else.

“Don’t Dress for Dinner” is a thoroughly enjoyable, perfectly produced slice of British farce that is a blast to watch! Go see this show! You’ll not only have a great time, but you’ll definitely see farce at its finest!



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