January 13, 2011 in Features

Cheerful cheats

Civic stages bedroom farce, ‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Michelle Philbin as Suzanne, Leigh Sandness as Jacqueline and Shawna Nordman as Suzette pile on Jhon Goodwin, who plays George, in a scene from Spokane Civic Theatre’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”
(Full-size photo)

If you go

‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’

When: Opens Friday and continues through Jan. 30. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays

Where: Spokane Civic Theatre, Main Stage, 1020 N. Howard St.

Cost: $16 to $21

Call: (509) 325-2507 or TicketsWest outlets (800-325-SEAT, www.ticketswest.com)

The Spokane Civic Theatre’s upcoming “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” by the late French playwright Marc Camoletti, is the kind of bedroom farce that Paris and London audiences love.

In other words, this 1987 French comedy is full of mistaken identities, double entendres, Gallic indignation and sight gags involving seltzer water.

It ran for two years in Paris and a spectacular seven years in London. It never made it to Broadway – a place not so enamored of sex farces – yet it has become a popular choice among summer-stock companies and community theaters.

The show was revived in Chicago two years ago and the Chicago Tribune called it a “cheerfully retro, happily un-PC attraction” in which you “don’t have to suspend your intelligence.”

It arrives at the Civic on Friday in a production directed by Thomas Heppler.

The plot involves a philandering husband, Bernard, who plans a tryst with his mistress at a French country house. His wife Jacqueline catches wind of the affair and shows up at the house. And so does her boyfriend.

Various other characters, including a Cordon Bleu chef, add to the confusion. Comical hanky-panky ensues.

It helps to understand that “Don’t Dress for Dinner” is a sequel to Camoletti’s even-bigger success, “Boeing Boeing.”

That comedy was also about a randy Frenchman named Bernard who tries to juggle three fiancés, all of whom were airline stewardesses. And yes, the French one was named Jacqueline.

“Boeing Boeing” was a huge Paris hit in 1960 and went across the Channel to London, where it played seven years. Then it played briefly on Broadway in 1962, but had a more successful Broadway revival in 2008 with Bradley Whitford, Christine Baranski and Mark Rylance.

Most people, however, know “Boeing Boeing” from its 1965 film version starring Tony Curtis as Bernard and Jerry Lewis as Robert. It was a classic mid-’60s farce with Rat Pack-ish sensibilities, as illustrated by this plot synopsis from the movie soundtrack: “Once upon a time, there were two big bad wolves and three helpless little airline stewardesses.”

“Don’t Dress for Dinner” revisits Bernard, Robert and Jacqueline years later. Their shenanigans apparently haven’t changed much. Bernard and Robert are still behaving badly, and you can be sure they’ll get their comic comeuppance.

The Civic’s cast features Scott Miller as Bernard, Leigh Sandness as Jacqueline, Christopher Rounsville as Robert, Michelle Philbin as Suzanne, Shawna Nordman as Suzette and Jhon Goodwin as George.

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