Don’t Dress for Dinner–a sequel to the door-slamming hit Boeing-Boeing–has the bad luck of coming right on the heels of One Man, Two Guvnors, with which it has a lot in common.
Both productions–which came from London’s West End–are mistaken identity farces set in the 1960s, based on plays that were adapted from or translated from a foreign language, and which lead up to a crucial dinner.
But Guvnors mixes its lowbrow shenanigans with some literate wordplay, an occasional political jibe, and a lovably exuberant star performance.
Dinner is more sit-commy in its plotting, without any aspirations other than goofy comedy and sexual leering, but it still provides a healthy bunch of laughs in the process.
The plot alone could make your head spin:
A man is expecting his friend and a certain woman over to his house for a party. He doesn’t realize the friend is his own wife’s lover. His wife, meanwhile, doesn’t realize the woman is her husband’s mistress.
And she might never find out since the French cook who has come over is mistaken to be the mistress, and is later passed off as the friend’s niece, until her husband shows up and . . . Oh, never mind.
The plot is just an excuse for a lot of “Who are you again?” confusion as the characters intentionally withhold info from each other, either for their own protection or to advance the absurdist comedy.
John Tillinger directs the cast to generally not overdo the artificiality of it all, and Spencer Kayden is particularly delightful as the French cook who’s willing to play just about any role for 200 more francs. A bit where she’s transformed from a cook to a vamp in a matter of seconds is priceless, even if the character always has a price.
Act Two seems completely superfluous–just like with One Man, Two Guvnors–but while this show will surely be regarded as Guvnors‘ bastard child, it’s a guiltily pleasurable sex farce that can be idiotically funny.
And that’s high praise (if not highbrow praise) indeed.