Don't Dress for Dinnerby Marc Camoletti, adapted by Robin Hawden. Directed by Ron Bashford at the Hangar Theatre. With Charles McIver, Carine Montbertrand, and ensemble. Through Sat. June 24.
There's absolute truth in advertising when the Hangar Theatre bills its current production as a "hilarious bedroom farce." The laughter starts rolling through the audience in the first few moments and doesn't let up; I for one exited with a silly grin on my face, feeling as if I'd just had an internal massage.
"Don't Dress for Dinner," written in 1987 by Marc Camoletti (originally "Pajamas for Six," in French) arrives via Robin Hawden's 1991 version for London audiences, giving us the best of both farcical worlds-the
Gallic and the British. The single evening's sexual mayhem takes place in a posh country home outside Paris-a revamped farmhouse, which gives rise to lots of jokes about sleeping in the cowshed and the piggery.
Bernard (Charles McIver) is cheating on his wife Jacqueline (Carole Healey), who's cheating on him with his best friend Robert (Matthew Montelongo), who's forced to cover for Bernard by pretending to have an affair with Bernard's lover, Suzanne (Kat Auster), who's forced to pretend she's the cook after Robert mistakes the cook Suzette (Carine Montbertrand) for Suzanne. Got it? And that's all in the first couple of scenes.
The plot is so quickly and continually complicated that by the end of the first act, you can't imagine what more could happen. But of course it does, in spades. The play's action is an elaborates cat's cradle that grows impossibly tangled until it's suddenly magically unravelled in the
final moments. And under Ron Bashford's direction (his fourth comedy for the Hangar), the excellent pacing makes the show.
Much of the high entertainment is due to the tight ensemble work and the cast's superb comic timing, the heart of all fine farce. As the philandering husband who's started the whole mess, McIver is particularly funny; he's so hyper and elastic that his body-dives set the standard for everyone else's. The comic pratfalls are matched by the wordplay, and here the dashing Montelongo positively dazzles. Auster plays a clueless, spoiled blonde model and Healey's wife seethes in lust and jealousy. In the final scenes, Dennis Heaphy is a strong and amusing presence as the cook's protective husband. And, as the cook, Montbertrand is a force of nature-coarse, greedy, oversexed, and tacky beyond belief (her costumes will leave you gasping). She grates the moment she opens her mouth and then, from one outrageous moment to another, completely charms-a brilliant comedienne.
David Esler's handsome set, Justin Townsend's warm lighting, and Nanzi Adzima's costumes (those ties! that negligee! that chartreuse fringed halter top!) all provide the perfect context for this don't-miss show which closes this weekend.