BOTTG’s ‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’ a fine farce by Tony Wade April 24, 2015
Benicia Old Town Theatre Group has the world “old” in its name. It is appropriate as the group is now in its 51st year of existence. The building they perform in, the historic BDES Hall, is more than 100 years old.
What’s new there? The latest production, “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”
I had never heard of the show before and that suited me just fine. I always prefer to have the show unfold before my eyes and get drawn into the story rather than read about the plot beforehand.
Now two things I did know was that it was a farce and that the director was the talented Clinton Vidal. Both of those things were pluses as I love to laugh and know that Vidal is quite talented.
Honestly, several minutes into the show, I was starting to get nervous. I, like other audience members, went there to be entertained and for what seemed like a huge part of the opening minutes of the show there was not so much as a nervous giggle from the audience.
But it soon became clear that the show was one of those that needs to simmer for a while. It requires a bit of patience to set the stage and then deliver the payoff.
It was a tasty, pleasing stew that made you wait a little bit while it cooked, but was ultimately fulfilling. Think crock pot versus microwave.
The show was written by French playwright Marc Camoletti, debuted in 1987 and takes place at a dinner party. It is basically about who is sleeping with whom and as characters were added, the plot deepened and became funnier and funnier.
My nervous silence at the beginning was replaced by everything from chortles to chuckles to belly laughs and even with some forms of laughter that have yet to be properly labeled and categorized. A good sign that a farce is successful is when at the end you realize too late that you should have stretched your face muscles before the show.
The cast of six people featured Scott Poitras (Bernard), Chuck Schilling (Robert), Natalie Hardt (Jacqueline), Jenny Rastegar (Suzette), Callie Heyer (Suzanne) and Brian Hough (George). Their onstage interactions were hysterical and each brought their considerable individual skills to the piece so that as a unit they became even better than the sum of their parts.
Probably the meatiest and funniest written part was Suzette. I have never seen Rastegar in a show before, but now want to either start or join her fan club.
I think the thing that really came across was the fun the cast was having performing the show as we reacted to them with appreciative laughter and later applause. That wonderful, symbiotic, in-the-moment magic that sometimes occurs between a cast and an audience is an absolutely beautiful thing to be a part of and to behold.
The players were terrific and their playground, a set made to look like a converted barn (designed by Brian Hough) was great as well. The costumes – especially those worn by Hardt – were splendid and kudos to Dyanne Vojvoda who is also the company’s publicist.
So, to recap, the theater is old, the company is old, but “Don’t Dress for Dinner” just may teach you, as it did me, new ways to laugh.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at toekneeweighed@
“Don’t Dress for Dinner”
8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, April 23-24, May 1-2, May 8-9
2 p.m. Sunday, April 26, May 3
BDES Hall, 140 W. J St., Benicia