Don't Dress for Dinner | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Don't Dress for Dinner 

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DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER, Northstar Theatre Company, at the Theatre Building. Robin Hawdon's English adaptation of Marc Camoletti's 1987 French farce Pyjamas pour six seems to have lost some fundamental elements in the translation. True, the plot involves a married couple, their two paramours, and a servant who has the same name--surprise!--as one of the other characters. The sumptuous set includes five doors, two heavily draped windows, and a spritzer bottle. And there is in evidence an abundance of leg, bosom, and alcohol.

But in this Chicago debut by the Northstar Theatre Company, the doors are talked about more than they're slammed, the milieu is geographically nebulous (if this is an English couple on holiday in France, why does the caterer speak in a British working-class accent?), the attitudes motivating the mayhem are never clear, the witticisms are facile, and the physical comedy is contrived and generic (a grapple for possession of the telephone is shtick that doesn't suit the play's logic).

The acting is on a competent community-theater level, with the exceptions of Elizabeth Acerra and Jeris Donovan as the wife and the mistress: both have plenty upstairs in addition to breathtaking staircases, and they deliver engaging, character-focused performances. But neither they nor the elegant set can rescue a farce that merely fizzes when it should sparkle.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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