By Daniel Skora
Ten years ago, when the Tipping Point Theatre first opened its doors to theatergoers in Northville and Southeastern Michigan, they knew it was important to start with a production that would not only have broad appeal but would showcase the attention to detail that patrons would expect from future shows. For their first production, they chose the hilariously funny “Don’t Dress For Dinner”, Robin Hawdon’s adaptation of French playwright Marc Camoletti’s farce about what can go wrong when you’re in the midst of having an affair. To celebrate their tenth anniversary and launch their six-play 2016/17 season, they’re reprising this deliciously funny farce.
The play reunites long-time buddies Bernard and Robert who had such a hard time keeping juggling their lady friends in Camoletti’s most often produced comedy “Boeing Boeing”. Here the two are embroiled in another messy situation the result of their own making. The now married Bernard (Wayne David Parker), is anticipating an intimate weekend with his exquisitely beautiful mistress Suzanne (Melynee Saunders Warren). He’s packed up his wife Jaqueline (Sarab Kamoo) for a trip to see her mother and feverishly worked out the details for the weekend. He’s invited over his friend Robert (Dave Davies) to the country house he and his wife live in outside of Paris just in case he needs an alibi. He’s also hired a cook (Sonja Marquis) to prepare a gourmet dinner to go along with the champagne he’s got chilling in the cooler. But affairs have their way of coming unraveled and Bernard’s is no exception.
When Jaqueline begins to suspect that Bernard’s weekend may include something more than hanging around with his old pal Robert, she cancels her trip to her mother. Robert, in turn, turns out to be having an affair of his own, this with none other than Bernard’s wife Jaqueline. When Robert mistakenly assumes that the cook, whose name is Suzette (or Suzy) is Bernard’s paramour Suzy (or Suzanne), Robert is forced by Bernard to say that she’s actually his mistress in order to cover up Bernard’s affair. This requires Suzy (Suzanne), Robert’s mistress who is the last to arrive for the evening, to take on the identity of the cook.
And so begins the gloriously funny charade that’s “Don’t Dress For Dinner”. Though the set has its share of doors, the comedy is not a farce whose humor is based solely on quick entrances and exits. Mistaken identities and conspiracies gone awry are what this story is all about. Suzanne can’t cook up a gourmet French dinner if she tried. Suzette is totally lacking in the social skills necessary to pretend to be a lady of sophistication. Jaqueline is shooting daggers at Bernard because she assumes he’s dumped her for another woman. Bernard is having a time of it trying to keep Robert and his two Suzie’s on script and preventing the truth of his own infidelities from coming out. And poor Robert is the most hapless of souls, trying to help out his friend Bernard, appealing to Jaqueline that he’s really still in love with her, and attempting to keep Suzette, the cook, from getting too serious about acting out the part of being his mistress. As each deception gets peeled away, new ones take their place. When Suzette’s boyfriend (Brandon Grantz) arrives at the end of the evening to pick her up, the show has gone through so many twists and turns that even a scorecard wouldn’t be of any help.
“Don’t Dress For Dinner” is magnificently staged and smartly acted. Tipping Point has brought back the show not only to celebrate its anniversary, but also because the show is a crowd pleaser. Director James R. Kuhl has assembled some of the area’s finest talent. Wayne David Parker and Dave Davies are two of the funniest guys in local theatre. Sonja Marquis is her usual brilliant self, spicing up the action with a comedy that is both visual and physical. Sarab Kamoo contributes the show’s feminine elegance while the persona of Melynee Saunders Warren’s character falls somewhere between the other two ladies. The timing of all the actors is impeccable.
The production features an elegant set. The home of Bernard and Jaqueline was originally a barn that was converted into a country house, and Jennifer Maiseloff’s set is both richly appointed and fashionably chic. It’s not confined to just the staging area but extends into parts of the theatre usually left unaffected by the set. Wooden beams that form the ceiling of the barn stretch well into the overhead lighting. The walls behind the audience have been paneled to look like the whole room is part of the set, and the floor, painted in a stylish marble pattern, begins the very moment you step into the theatre.
Lighting, by Don W. Baschal, is bright and cheery until the very end, when most everyone finds their way into pajamas (Camoletti’s French title was Pyjama Pour Six). Costumes are by Suzanne Young while sound comes courtesy of Marie Perreault.
“Don’t Dress For Dinner” is a show you won’t want to miss. It’s a couple of hours of non-stop fun delightfully performed and nicely packaged by a theatre that’s become one of the best in the area. The show runs through October 23rd. Tickets are available online at www.tippingpointtheatre.com or at the theatre’s box office which is open Mon. through Fri. 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 90 minutes prior to all performances. Tipping Point Theatre is located at 361 E. Cady Street in Northville, telephone number 1.248.347.0003.