“Musicals for people who don’t like musicals” is a description you sometimes hear when someone is talking about a big, populist show like Chicago or Wicked. But it’s not really for people who don’t “like” musicals; rather, it’s for people who aren’t very experienced theatergoers. Nothing wrong with those kinds of shows – they serve as a gateway to further discovery.
Don’t Dress for Dinner at Theater Three is a show that might fall under the larger category of “theater for people who aren’t theatergoers.” Anyone who has ever watched a sitcom (specifically Frasier) can easily pick up on what’s going on in this French farce. Two men and two women gather at a house – everyone is trying to sleep with one person present while keeping that desire from someone else in the room. When a fifth and finally sixth person are added to the mix, everybody is busy trying to expose someone else while maintaining their personal innocence.
And it’s hysterical.
I will readily admit to being a relative theater newcomer (at least compared with this guy), but I can’t ever remember laughing more consistently at the theater. The cast is uniformly strong, with the bulk of those laughs directed at Ashley Wood and Kimberly Condict. Their characters begin the play as strangers but are forced to masquerade as both a couple and later an uncle and niece, depending on who else is in the room.
Lawson Taitte of The Dallas Morning News was also there last night. He liked it, too (you can read his review here).
A few more observations about Monday night’s opening:
- I’d estimate that the theater was 80-90 percent full. It seems that more than a few people took advantage of the half-price ticket deal for a Monday opening night.
- I did have a small complaint about the costumes. The women are all dressed in ways that seem like this could be taking place outside Paris, but when was the last time you saw a Frenchman in khakis? Yet both the male leads sport them (one with pleats!) before one of them changes into a pair of plaid pajamas. Those are American styles, and I have to say that it made me forget now and then that this was supposed to be French. I am glad that no one spoke with French-accented English — that would have been truly distracting — but a little style upgrade for the men to match the women would add a level of authenticity to the proceedings.
- How do you know that the show is going well? Watch the director. I sat no more than five feet from john McLean, a former Dallasite living in Paris who returned to Theater Three to directed the play. When a joke would land, he was genuinely laughing as hard as the people next to him. And this is a guy who knows what’s coming before the words leave the actors’ lips.