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

Don't Dress for Dinner 

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DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER, Attic Playhouse. Perfected by Georges Feydeau in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the sex farce has more recently been associated with lowbrow tourist shows in London (like Ray Cooney's Run for Your Wife) and badly acted touring and amateur productions of the sort Michael Frayn sends up in Noises Off. But in the hands of a strong writer--someone like Joe Orton--a sex farce can transcend its smutty roots and become a coherent critique of human nature.

Robin Hawdon's elegant 1991 adaptation of Marc Camoletti's Don't Dress for Dinner, originally written in French, has the potential to reach this height. The plot is complicated enough to keep the laughs coming: a seemingly average London couple become entangled in a web of lies, each one funnier and more bizarre than the last, when they both try to arrange, then hide, several illicit trysts. But underneath the laugh machine is a devastating satire of contemporary mores and an inflexible class system.

Sadly, the Attic Playhouse's awkward production eliminates most of the work's deeper tones. Filled with stiff performances, bad accents, awful timing, and indifferently delivered dialogue, this staging still manages to be somewhat entertaining, thanks in part to Leah Rose's hilarious impersonation of a self-involved supermodel wannabe. But most of the credit is due Hawdon, whose adaptation remains funny even when the production is running on one cylinder.

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