Theatre Arlington’s clever folks realize that January’s slump is the perfect reason to mount a rollicking romantic production to usher in the New Year. In Don’t Dress For Dinner, directed by regional actor and DFW Theatre Critics Forum honored director Andy Baldwin, they found the ideal vehicle to launch 2011 in fine style. A cheery French farce with British overtones by Marc Camoletti, sequel to the better known Boeing Boeing, the play offers bubbly balance between panty-twisting plot and hyper-physical characterizations. It’s sure to inspire a grin from the most stone-faced audience member, in spite of sometimes-muddy accents.
What’s needed to give this spiffy champagne cocktail the right buzz? Supersonic timing, deadpan delivery and an impeccable instinct for physical comedy. Baldwin possesses these attributes as a performer in magnum case quantity. Using this vault-full of knowledge and talent, he blends a willing cast of six with varying degree of acting skill and experience into an entertaining ensemble.
Key to the ensemble’s success is the noted stage, improvisation and film actor Jeff Swearingen, regionally celebrated by virtually very award-giving arts organization in the region. With commanding stage presence Swearingen brings focus and energy to any scene and sweeps everyone else on stage along with him. Swearingen can make tying shoe laces look fascinating and funny. In Don’t Dress For Dinner his character beguiles the audience with droll charm as the unwitting partner to a husband’s adulterous deception while he’s actually cheating with the man’s wife, himself. Complimenting Swearingen’s mastery, DFW regional newcomer Amber Quinn uncorks a tart bouteille of saucy fun as a wisecracking opportunistic chef de mischief and femme fatale, adding a charming layer of over the top hilarity to the play’s relational contretemps.
SMU MFA graduate Morgan McClure, a classy blonde with a near perfect (and blodly displayed) figure, stalks through the proceedings with haughty allure. Grounding the plot in less showy roles are Chase Burnett and Rachel Robertson, as the well-matched adulterous pair whose nefarious extra-marital schemes have backfired in grand farce fashion. Regional actor and FUNimation voice talent Ben Phillips ‘graces’ the final ‘coup’ to the chaotic dénouement with his booming voice and bear-like presence.
Don’t Dress for Dinner ran for two years in gay Paris under the name Pyjamas Pour Six. At Theatre Arlington it runs through January 30. Come as you are, dinner attire or otherwise. You’ll leave with a petit French bounce to your step. Enchantée.
With scenic design by Jack Hardaway, lighting by Michael B. Winters and très jolies risqués costumes by Meredith Hinton
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