“Come and knock on our door… we’ve been waiting for you… where the kisses are hers and hers and his…”
If you’re over 35, I’ll bet you my first-born son that you can complete this line. Like many Gen-Xers, I grew up watching Three’s Company. I remember watching it when I was in middle school; it was one of the ways I was introduced to the “naughty” world that adults inhabited.
There was always some kind of sordid intrigue going on… Chrissy had two dates on the same night and thought she could keep them both by simply keeping the guys in different rooms, or Jack tries to babysit his neighbor’s daughter while simultaneously putting the moves on an old friend who stops by. (Quick Three’s Company trivia opportunity! Did you know it was an American re-make of a 1973 BBC sitcom, Man About the House? Well, now you do! You see, it’s my duty as a Brit to alert you Yanks to all things that were first British, and then, of course, to condescendingly add that they were so much better too. Then it’s your duty to remind me who won that little war back in 1776 and shut me up.)
After reading a short description of Don’t Dress for Dinner, I couldn’t help but think of Three’s Company. Although I loved it in my teenage years, by the time I graduated high school, the re-runs seemed flat, formulaic and filled with canned laughter. “Oh no… here we go!” I thought. “Typical sitcom drivel!” However, as soon as International City Theatre’s performance of Don’t Dress started, my fears quickly vanished. The play quickly went above and beyond any episode of Three’s Company on many levels… including delivering many more laughs!
The plot starts off with a simple dilemma: Bernard’s wife is leaving for the weekend, so he has made elaborate plans for a romantic weekend with his mistress, Suzanne; however, his wife decides to stay at home when she learns that her own lover is coming in to town to visit her. If this was Three’s Company, things would have stopped there, and this simple level of double-deceit would have provided ample opportunity for plenty of gaffes and sexual innuendo. However, this is not Three’s Company… it’s Three’s Company on steroids! Bernard and his wife Jacqueline are both lying to each other, but the cook, Suzette, and Bernard’s friend Robert are soon both victims and perpetrators to an increasingly tangled web of lies that simultaneously boggles and delights the audience’s minds. As each layer of deceit is added, you will be convinced that the game is up, yet playwright Marc Camoletti manages to weave each layer of lies neatly into the existing web… a Herculean and ingenious feat. Camoletti’s playwrighting credentials boast over 40 plays, including Boeing Boeing, which holds the Guiness World Record for the most performed play of all time.
Camoletti wrote Don’t Dress in 1987 and originally set the comedy in the contemporaneous decade of the 1980s.
After playing in Paris and then London, the play made its Broadway debut in 2012, where its temporal setting was pushed back to the 1960s. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the decade switch was a great idea. The men look dashing in their trim, three-button blazers, and the ladies are seductively svelte in their cocktail dresses. (Kudos to costume designer Kim DeShazo!) Would this have worked as well with women in leg warmers and acid-washed jeans and the men in Members Only jackets and mullets? I don’t think so.
Greg Deralian and Amie Farell play the adulterous couple (Bernard and Jaqueline) with farcical abandon. Afton Quast and Matthew Wrather are cast as their respective paramours and fulfill their duties admirably. But one cast member truly stood out with a performance that went above and beyond: Karen Jean Olds stole the show in the role of the cook, Suzette. Olds’s performance was simply brilliant; her timing and accent were impeccable! I hope I have the pleasure to see more plays with this standout in the future, and if you catch this play before it closes on Nov. 3, I’m sure you will agree.
“This is pure, desperate, naughty fun from start to finish,” says Director Todd Nielsen. “We get to peer in on this lovable group of fools as they stumble and strain through a weekend of lusty anticipation that crashes and fizzles. Sometimes you just have to go through the crazy to get to the sane. And in the end true romance wins the day!”
Don’t Dress for Dinner will play at the International City Theatre through Nov. 3. The venue is located at 300 East Ocean Ave. (directly above and behind the Long Beach Terrace Theatre). Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $38 general admission on Wednesdays, $45 on Fri-Sun. For tickets and more information, call (562) 436-4610 or visit InternationalCityTheatre.com .