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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents:"Donít Dress for Dinner" at the American Airlines Theatre
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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents:"Donít Dress for Dinner" at the American Airlines Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director

In Association with Damian Arnold

Ben Daniels, Adam James,
Patricia Kalember, Jennifer Tilly

Spencer Kayden, David Aron Damane

Donít Dress for Dinner

By Marc Camoletti
Adapted by Robin Hawdon

Directed by John Tillinger

At the
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 47th Street

Set Design: John Lee Beatty
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Ken Billington
Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Fight Director: Thomas Schall
Production Stage Manager: Barclay Stiff
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA/Carrie Gardner, CSA
Stephen Kopel/Laura Stanczyk, CSA
General Manager: Denise Cooper
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Marketing & Sales Promotions: Thomas Mygatt
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Assoc. Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 2, 2012

Donít Dress for Dinner is a delightful French farce, ŗ la Feydeau and Moliere, that premiered in Paris in 1987, by French playwright, Marc Camoletti. Robert Howdon has adapted the play for this English production, and its setting is 1960ís, north of Paris. The elegant country home is awash in refinement, and British born Bernard (Adam James) is planning a rendezvous with his mistress, Suzanne (Jennifer Tilly), while wife, Jacqueline (Patricia Kalember), leaves the hearth to spend a few days with her mother. As farces do, surprises abound. Bernard has hired a catering company to send someone to prepare gourmet dishes to last the weekend, and Suzanne, offstage, is on her way. Jacqueline is packing, and the doorbell rings. Bernardís friend, Robert (Ben Daniels), has decided to surprise them (actually to surprise Jacqueline, his secret lover). Jacqueline cancels her departure, and the farce is ready to bake.

Bernard is frantic, what to do with Suzanne? So, when the very French Suzette (Spencer Kayden), the catering companyís cook, arrives, and Robert assumes sheís Suzanne, Bernard asks her to act as Robertís mistress, a plot to keep Jacqueline in the dark. Suzette agrees, for a sum. As the evening progresses, with each additional acting request, she plants the cash into her costume. That costume is her catering uniform, turned inside out and upside down, as a cocktail dress. Suzanne finally arrives, and of course Bernard implores her to act as if sheís the cook, even though she clearly is not the domestic type, except in the bedroom. As in French farce, Mr. Camoletti has the characters pop in and out of doors, although the stage could have had one extra level for effect, a landing with an extra room, or such. Where the production was weakest was in the casting. I did not find the initial lead characters, Bernard, Jacqueline, or Robert to be funny, let alone hilarious. They just lacked in farcical gesture and presence. There was much long arm signaling, behind backs, etc., but that was more of a television sitcom style than Broadway farce.

In contrast, the remaining three characters were quintessential comics. In fact, I wrote in my notes that ďa star is bornĒ, as Spencer Kayden was absolutely hilarious as Suzette, with perfect timing, putting on the airs of a mistress, although she was the cook. Her French accent was natural and accented, and her contortions, as she was plied with wine, sent the audience roaring. I always find the audience as a barometer, they arenít told when to laugh, and they just adored Ms. Kayden. Jennifer Tilley, as Suzanne, was also in high comedy, ditzy and sexy, and there was much falling on furniture, on other characters, and so on. The third comical character was George, a late arrival, Suzetteís husband, tall, dark, impassioned, and macho. The few minutes of back and forth between George and Suzette was certainly worth the wait and would serve as the kernel for another play, as this duo hit their mark with such brilliant persuasion. Mr. Howdonís adaptation of Mr. Camolettiís play could use tightening of humor and dropping of overly bawdy dialogue. John Tillinger directed, and, with high comedy actors in the three lead roles, this play could be a smash, or, shall we say, a tour de force.

John Lee Beattyís set is quietly sophisticated, and William Ivey Longís costumes are especially effective on Suzette and Suzanne. Thomas Schall, fight director, had much to do with characters often physically imbalanced and on top of one another. Sadly, Mr. Camoletti passed away in 2003. He also wrote the hit show, Boeing-Boeing. His literary imagination was superb.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at