Sunday, July 20, 2014

THEATER REVIEW: Don't Dress For Dinner

Millbrook Playhouse can be depended upon to do a farce each season. This season’s choice is DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER and it kept the packed house roaring with laughter. Hint: Always count the doors on stage, the more doors the more outrageous the comedy. DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER has five doors, plus the audience area was used! A good farce also demands fast pacing and director Synge Maher gave us a show that never slowed down.

Much of the comedy depended on physical contact so it was vital that the actors be right on their spots or there could have been bodily damage. Equally important are the rapid lines. I was pleased that even though some were close to being tongue twister, not a line was missed. Ms. Maher obviously worked this cast during rehearsals. So much has to be said for the cast. Millbrook has had many talented performers on its stage over the years, but this season the whole company is outstanding.

We have seen three different sides of Katrina Dieh this summer and each time she has impressed me. This show has her playing the blond bombshell, Suzanne, who never quite understands what is going on. If the audience had never seen her in anything else, Katrina would only be cast as the ditzy blond. And remember, she can sing! Katrina is in the Theatre Arts program at Penn State so locals should have a chance to see more of her in the future.

We will get a chance to see Meghan McCormick later in Church Basement Ladies which should be a switch in character for her. In DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER Meghan is the proper wife whom everybody else is trying to keep in the dark while she has secrets of her own. This called for the most layered performance on stage and Meghan was up to the task.

Peter Kendall and James Cella, as best friends Bernard and Robert, (even though one is having an affair with the other’s wife) played off of each other perfectly. There were times that Monty Python images went through my head; the physical humor was so good and the difficult lines flowed so smoothly.

Joseph Tornabene-Zalas was proof that there are no small parts in the theatre. He was on stage only near the end of the show for a brief time, but was so perfect for the role. Here is an actor that I would like to see do other parts. 

Stealing the show from these other talents was Meg Mark as Suzette. The role of Suzette gave Meg a chance to run the range of acting skills. Meg was a pure delight as the slightly dowdy hired cook. She was radiant after a few drinks! It was clear that the dumpy Suzette would transform into the sexy actress/model(?) early in the plot, but the actual transformation was beyond belief.

I love a good farce, but it is crucial that all of the elements, timing on the actors’ part, pacing on the part of the director, and good, fresh lines from the playwright, come together. DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER had the perfect combination of each element. Plus the cast seemed to be having a party that they thoughtfully invited the audience to join as expressed in a very enthusiastic curtain call.

DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER will be in the Cabaret July 23-27 and will be followed by Church Basement Ladies on August 1st. Biloxi Blues opens July 25th on the Main Stage. And, that sadly, will bring a close to Millbrook's 2014 season. Call 570 748 8083 or check their website for more information.

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