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Chanticleers fall comedy takes us to Paris France - just outside the big city. “Don't Dress for Dinner” by French playwright Mark Camoletti, (Boeing-Boeing) adapted by Robin Hawdon. No need to dress formal but come ready to laugh at Chanticleers Playhouse fall comedy that closes their 2018 season. The Dinner is open through November 11th at the Castro Valley Stage. Directed by Randy Anger he has cast some sharp comic actors for this fast change door slamming romp; “ Mark Twain said Comedy keeps the heart sweet’ I know it can make an audience laugh - This cast has risen to the challenge and done everything I have asked of them. I hope the audience will succumb to the improbable manic energy of this delightful farce” says Anger.

This tightly written sitcom resembles a commedia dell'arte feel with a Marx Brothers speed. Director Anger manages to keep his six member cast in at dizzying disarray of mistresses, friends, cooks and women named Suzy with flowing madness. The constant slapstick spilling drinks, swatting at bugs, wrestling on the sofa and slapping each other is farce that is non stop. Anger directs the show with wringing a lot of farcical situations that will make you smile. Camoletti's comedy, subtext is not serious, yet in this “Me too” era the topic of infidelity can be uncomfortable for some.

The story takes place outside of Paris as the dinner party follows Bernard who is planning an intimate evening with his mistress and packs his wife off to her mother's. Unfortunately his wife, Jacqueline, stays in town and his best friend Robert is used as his alibi but their is a secret hidden. Robert — who, it turns out, is Jacqueline’s lover, Bernard is blind to that topic. Throw in two cooks, mistaken identities and some fantastic slapstick routines and you have the makings for the madcap romp that is the classic sitcom. Director Anger infuses this show with high humor and great costume changes and the perfect giggles.

Leading the cast as the husband Bernard is the terrific Roger Caetano. He is a dynamite, dapper, actor who plays the part in a state of high anxiety and nervousness. He has a definite flair for this comic role with fantastic facial expressions, slow burns and rapid fire line delivery. His comic bit is constantly changing his costumes due to other's squirting and spilling things on him. Some of Caetano's funniest scenes happen as he wrestles on the sofa with Robert played by the witty John Vincent Burke as he tries to take his manhood with a pair of ice tongs. Camoletti is the best at fast pace dialogue and a “who’s on first” style of confusion that always gets a laugh.

The priceless Rhonda Joy Taylor is Jacqueline, the long suffering wife who has a hidden secret of her own. Taylor, uses Jacqueline's outward elegance to mask a racy interior that shows itself in bewitching spurts, and sharp comic timing. She is particularly delightful as she tries to untangle the myriad of marriage messes around her. Jacqueline finds out about her husband's infidelity and is furious about it. She gets to yell and browbeat the other players and does a wonderful job doing so. Jacquetine mistakes Suzanne and Suzette, who are the cook and girlfriend creating chaos in the household. The cook has to pretend she is Robert’s mistress, while the mistress, Suzanne, pretends she is the cook who can’t cook (as noted, the two women named Suzy). All characters tell lie upon lie to cover up the true happenings. The six players are all classic sitcom players and solid physical actors.

The sizzling Jacqui Herrera plays the real cook Suzette and she is so enrobed in Suzette's MO that she is the only actor with a French accent. Herrera has the most physical action with her classic French swagger that by the second act she becomes capable of bringing down the house with just a slight twist of her hand. Suzette is a woman who, like the actress playing her, knows exactly who she is, what she wants, and how she plans to get it. By the end of the two hour comedy her job as the cook has scored her over 1600 francs covering up the lies for the others.

The hilarious John Vincent Burke is very comical as Robert, Bernard's best friend. He is hilarious as he races around the stage trying to keep the secrets from being revealed. He is a hoot when he cowers in fear when he is threatened to be beaten up or castrated by a jealous husband.

The elegant Laura Zimmerman plays Bernard's sexy mistress, Suzanne, who is a model. She is a beautiful brunette who makes this role come alive and has some clever sarcastic lines “I'm a hooker of a cook“. Jung-hoon’s costumes look amazing on her as she takes her million dollar look to cover for the cook when needed. Zimmerman is elegant in her evening wear while ruining dinner. She shows the jealous streak in the character perfectly as she slaps Bernard around and spills white sauce all over him. Caetano’s many costume changes keep Jung Hoon busy creating some dapper tux class for dinner, to the men's night clothes. He also has a great time with the women's colorful dinner wear, and Suzette maid clothes that transform to a dinner gown.

Last, but not least, is the accomplished James Frankle as the physically threatening character, George, the cook’s husband. His wife, Suzette, explains to George they have been playing a new game “Happy Families” all night. Although he enters late in the second act, he delivers a clumsy, bully performance which keeps the crowd laughing as he tackles the two men the women pile on top of him to stop the madness.

The set is authentic based on a barn that was redesigned to a high end home. Set designer Michael J Simons brings a rich living room of doors and exits. Camoletti’s plays tend to call for interiors with plenty of bedroom doors and easy exits for the shenanigans in his French domestic comedies. The set heightens the humor for the audience, a goal Simons easily achieves. Props master, Denise Yerby, kept the living room set busy with a full bar that the Suzies devour, and an old school cord dial phone is used to tangle Bemard and Robert in one of their first of many tiffs. My favorite prop had to be the ice tongs used by Benard to dethrone Roberts manhood.

Simons’ light design complements his set and stage manager Kathy Romine and her crew keep things running smoothly for the dinner and the after manic fun. Steven Baker's sound design included some stylish music as you enter the theatre. The fast costume changes are keen, Jung Hoon's costumes provide their own sly satire on the proceedings, yet I was distracted by Herrera’s wig in the first act. Anger shows his expertise at comic direction, his six member cast each has their moment to shine. Each with enough titillation for both the men and women with open robes and cheery cleavage for the sold out Chanticleers weekend audience. Slammed doors, non-stop laughter, and utter, naughty delight are part of DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER. Chanticleers Theatre closes out their 67th season with this fun farce, and opens their 2019 season with 39 STEPS and later the musical CABARET. But in the meantime join this dinner party and their new game called “Happy Families” - it is a fun evening.

Chanticleers Theatre Presents

Don’t Dress for Dinner

By Marc Camoletti

Adapted by Robin Hawdon

Directed by Randy Anger

Produced by John Baiocchi

Must Close Nov 11th 2018

Running time 2 hours with one intermission

Chanticleers Theatre

3683 Quail Ave (CV Community Park)

Castro Valley, California 94546

Tickets Call 510-733-5483.

This show contains adult content. Not appropriate for children.

Photos by Becky Doyle

CAST Jacqui Herrera Frankle, John Vincent Burke, Laura Zimmerman, Roger MN Caetano, Jacqui Herrera Frankle and Rhonda Joy Taylor. Directed by Randy Anger

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