Dinner theater production plays up mistaken identity
"Don't Dress for Dinner," running now at St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre in Hudson, is a comedy drenched in lies as a wedded couple, and their lovers, grapple to hide their affairs.
As the lights come up, Bernard and Jacqueline, a married couple, are milling around their country home in France. Jacqueline is about to depart for a weekend visit to see her mother, and her husband is planning to take advantage of the opportunity by inviting his mistress over to celebrate her birthday. As an alibi he has also invited his best friend Robert. When Jacqueline learns this she quickly cancels her plans to leave, as she and Robert are secret lovers. Problems arise when the hired cook, with the same nickname as Bernard's mistress, rings the bell and Robert thinks she's Bernard's mistress who he said he'd pretend was his mistress so Bernard's wife doesn't uncover his affair, even though Robert is jeopardizing his own affair in doing so. Sound confusing? Unbelievably, it's a story line you can follow!
The audience broke out into spontaneous applause as Robert, played by Michael McKay, tries to make sense of it all in a monologue near the show's end. From the moment McKay greeted guests, as master of ceremonies, to his final bow, he had the audience eating out of his hand. His knack for hosting a dozen expressions on his face in a matter of seconds lent not only to his comedic charm, but also his believability as he's caught in some pretty sticky situations with his lover's husband.
And that lover, Jacqueline, played by Augusta Lane, is just as skilled in comedic believability with her darting eyes and smart hairdo. While Jacqueline and Robert pitch the looks and lines, Bernard, played by Joseph Lullo, can catch. The cast is rounded out by talented performers: the skinny, money-hungry cook Suzette, played by Lindsey Dumire; the sensual kitten Suzanne, played by Alanna Reeves; and the next-door neighbor-type husband George, played by Philip Frieler.
During intermission I cozied up to my neighbors at the table. I didn't know them, but applauded them in the welcome speech as the master of ceremonies said they were there celebrating their 49th anniversary. They were first-timers to this theater. New York transplants, they said they frequent the Guthrie and regularly visit area theaters, but they were tickled pink with the intimate space that the Best Western Hudson House Inn provided for productions.
"It's such a perfect little theater and a sweet space," the bride told me as she ate her half of the cheesecake she and her husband split with their coffee and milk during intermission. "It's good to see people having a good time," he chimed in as he snatched a bite of cake from her side.
If everyone enjoys the show as much as I did, the cast will soon find themselves living the line that Suzette expresses with sincerity in the second act, "It's very nice to be so popular."
"Don't Dress for Dinner" runs Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 1. The $52 ticket price includes dinner with a non-alcoholic beverage, the show, all taxes and the tip. To order tickets, call (715) 386-2394, ext. 333, or go online at www.stcroixoffbroadway.com.