There’s an old saying that goes, “when the cat’s away, the mice will play,” and, essentially, that’s the premise behind Don’t Dress for Dinner, a funny, farcical play adapted by Robin Hawdon from the work of Marc Camoletti. The only problem with that premise is that, in this case, the “cat” doesn’t actually go away as planned, and chaos ensues.
In the world of this play, put on by The Towne Players of Garner and directed by Beth Honeycutt, the “cat” is Jacqueline (Olivia Ashley). She’s planning to visit her mother, and her husband, Bernard (Dan Bain) is planning some secret alone time with his lover, Suzanne (Meg Dietrich). But, when Jacqueline learns that Bernard’s friend, Robert (Greg Flowers), will be in town, she decides to stay put. See, Robert is her on-the-side lover. And, if you’re confused, don’t worry, that’s kind of the point. Bernard begs Robert to pretend Suzanne is his lover . . . only Robert confuses the hired cook, Suzette (Brenna Smith), for Suzanne, and the two are forced to pretend to be each other for the night. Yes, it’s as silly as it sounds, but luckily, it’s also hilarious, thanks largely to the strong cast and staging.
Ashley plays her role as funny, breathy, and surprisingly sensual, while Bain convincingly plays the more sensible straight man character. Meanwhile, Flowers creates a Robert that is appropriately puttering and befuddled, while Smith’s Suzette is believably sweet and scheming all at the same time. Meanwhile, Dietrich and, in the second act, Ethan Carpenter, add their own hilarious styles to the comedic fun.
This racy, raunchy romp plays out on a cute country house set that’s complete with rustic brick walls and charming paintings. It’s also strengthened by Honeycutt’s crisp direction, which displays itself through smooth blocking, well-prepped physical comedy, and a nice, natural sense of movement throughout. And, as the night wears on and the characters get progressively drunker, Hawdon’s script and the stellar sound quality help keep the rapidly changing story surprisingly clear and easy to follow.
Ultimately, this production is a laugh-a-minute riot and a real treat for viewers. It’s a perfect testament to the unique charm and sheer joy of well-done community theatre. Plus, it all takes place at the Garner Performing Arts Center, a delightful venue with spacious seating and vintage style. And, while this particular show may have reached the end of its run, it’s a shining example of what The Towne Players of Garner can do.
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