Culture is doing a lot better than just eking itself out in The Valley these days. There have been some real hidden gems on offer in the past year alone by some edgy, risk taking theatre companies old and new waiting to be discovered by anyone willing to step out of the downtown LA and East to West Los Angeles theatre scene for a mini adventure, into the “wilds” of North Hollywood. It seems however, not everyone is getting the full memo.
As it happens The Group Rep, now in its 41st season has mounted a mainstage production of the breathtaking farce, Don’t Dress For Dinner at the Lonny Chapman Theatre.
Currently almost a hole-in-the-wall in location, the L.C. is quite inspiring once you step inside, impressively equipped with spacious seating, a perfectly raked stage, unobstructed views from every chair and interior design meant to last — which it obviously has. A nice surprise to be sure, one which I will admit set the tone for the evening.
I personally came looking for a very juicy burlesque. Alas, I will have to continue my search. If you are however, interested in enjoyable, straight-up, take-no-chances theatre, this is a piece for you.
The Group Rep’s, Don’t Dress For Dinner, although light-side entertaining and appreciated by older, front row audiences, isn’t always the most exciting production. If I were being incredibly hyper-critical, I’d say it directionally needed an overhaul. The performances were occasionally flat and a bit too often predictable. Some moments even felt like a really awesome scene study class which had me wishing this show would have risen above such mediocrity. Personally, I would have never allowed any of the faux accent work (British or French) it wasn’t masterfully funny, in fact, persistently annoying. And the stage, although excellently dressed, could have been a lot sexier to heighten the comedic genre.
But…and this is a big “but”, the actors do not lack. In fact, there is tremendous talent in this company, completely obvious from light’s up. It just wasn’t utilized to advantage or strength in this instance.
Don’t Dress For Dinner by Marc Camoletti (Boeing-Boeing) opened in Paris, was originally performed in 1987 in France, in French and then in London for six years, eventually making it to Broadway in 2012 to a fabulously successful run at the Roundabout Theatre in New York City where it garnered two Tony Awards and an Outer Critics Circle Award. It’s a wildly funny, already well tested show with a promise to delight. So although The Group Rep certainly put on its A- Game, this particular show needs a “step-up”. The characters don’t lack for any sort of over-the-top insanity, and most of the time neither did the cast. L’esprit de la comédie was all there but the delivery didn’t translate. The Group Rep has until January 25th to get it right. Fingers crossed.
Bernard’s plans for a romantic rendezvous with his mistress are complete with a gourmet caterer and an alibi courtesy of his friend, Robert. But when Bernard’s wife learns that Robert will be visiting for the weekend, she decides to stay in town for a surprise tryst of her own… setting the stage for a collision course of assumed identities and outrageous infidelities.
The cook is Suzette, the lover is Suzanne, the friend is bewildered, the wife is suspicious, the husband is losing his mind and everyone is guaranteed a good time at this hilarious romp through the French countryside.
Written by Marc Camoletti; Adapted by Robin Hawdon
Directed by Drina Durazo
Produced by Bert Emmett and Dan Sykes for the Group Rep
Featuring (: Patrick Burke (Bernard), Stephanie Colet (Suzanne), Julie Davis (Jacqueline), Jennifer Laks (Suzette), Patrick Skelton (Robert) and J. Christopher Sloan (George)