Wednesday, August 31, 2016

reviews - DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER - Desert Stages Theatre

Ashley Jackson, Wade Moran, Deborah Ostreicher, and Geoff Goorin
Photo by Heather Butcher / Desert Stages Theatre
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through September 19th.

"...In the French sex comedy Don’t Dress For Dinner now playing at Scottsdale Desert Stages Actor’s Cafe until September 19... the audience is thrown into the middle of a marital deceit that you know will soon go disastrously wrong as the plot machinations of secret affairs breathlessly unfolds....Adapted from French into English by British playwright Robin Hawdon, Don’t Dress For Dinner takes place in the living room of a cozy country home... The philandering middle-aged Bernard (Geoff Goorin) is to have a free weekend. His wife, Jacqueline (Deborah Weissman Ostreicher) is about to leave to visit her mother. This gives the adulterous husband the opportunity of sneaking his young mistress, Suzanne (Skylar Ryan) into the farmhouse for the weekend. Naturally, it all goes disastrously wrong when Jacqueline cancels plans and remains. What follows is a frantic mess involving Bernard’s friend Robert (Wade Moran), a Cordon Bleu cook who makes house-calls, Suzette (Ashley Jackson) and Suzette’s threatening, leather-jacketed husband, George (Jeff Viso). The six-person cast attack their roles with the kind of full-on, over the top energy required of characters in a farce as they race around the set, mug, panic and outdo each other by telling lie after lie while everything around them picks up speed and spirals out of control. ...It’s not the wordplay that’s funny – the wit of the script is minimal – it’s the actions and tangled plot developments that make you laugh; torturous for the characters but laugh-out-loud funny for the audience. As co directed by Virginia Oliviera and Gary Zaro, there’s something of a three-way cultural divide in the play’s presentation. The setting, setup and characters are definitely French, the dialog is British...and it’s all delivered with an American accent....Towards the last half hour, the play often looks as if it’s in danger of losing steam – it feels longer than it should – but the cast bring it back for the conclusion...As Suzette, Ashley Jackson’s natural charm and unforced comedic quality makes her Cordon Bleu caterer all the funnier as she willingly involves herself in the men’s deceit for a fee. ...Ashley steals every moment she’s on...." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Farce can be a difficult thing to pull off. You need the right pacing, proper comic timing, and the ability to not veer too far into the extreme; otherwise, it can come across as blatant mugging and scenery chewing. Desert Stages Theatre's production of the French farce Don't Dress For Dinner, while not perfect, features some fun performances, spirted direction, and several hilarious moments.
....While there are several times when the cast gets too broad or even a little amateurish, the production is fortunate that Ashley Jackson... is playing Suzette the cook. She has a natural ease in her line delivery and good comic timing. She manages to elevate her scenes with the other cast members, always keeps things interesting when she is on stage, and expertly handles everything required of her. As Bernard and Robert, Geoff Goorin and Wade Moran deliver on the frantic, crazed requirements of their parts. While they form somewhat realistic relationships with their romantic partners, neither really sizzle in the sexuality of the roles. Though that may partly be due to the upper crust British adaptation, which has them using phrases like "darling" when referring to the person they are in love with, which does tend to make the whole affair more "Downton Abbey" than "Lady Chatterly's Lover." ...Deborah Ostreicher... is sensual, perfectly charming, and does well when displaying how her character gets overly agitated. But this is a sex farce, so a little more heat would be nice from the three leads. ...Skylar Ryan...as Suzanne...provides a huge shot of sensuality in the otherwise mostly prim and proper cast....Directors Virginia Olivieri and Gary Zaro do a nice job of staging the action on the small DST stage. While the play does bog down a bit toward the end, they keep the pace fairly brisk and their cast hitting their appropriate marks. However, it is unfortunate that this production doesn't incorporate any accents, especially since it is set in France. Having everyone speak with an American accent seems strange. The recent Broadway revival used English accents for everyone but Suzette and her husband, who had thick French accents. This helped to not only set the location accurately but also made the use of British slang in the script seem appropriate. ...While DST's production may suffer from some shortcomings, especially with a cast that really needs to turn up the heat, be more natural, and pull back from crossing the line into being too broad, Don't Dress For Dinner still results in a fun affair."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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