DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER at RVP funny but flawed.

( l tor) Sondra Putman, Melissa Claire, Casey Bair and Marianne Shine in the hectic finale of Don't Dress For Dinner at the Ross Valley Players

DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER: Sex Farce by Marc Camoletti, adapted by Robin Hawden. Directed by Richard Ryan. Ross Valley Players (RVP)Barn Theater, Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, CA. 415-456-9555 or September 16 through October 16, 2011.

DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER at RVP funny but flawed.

The opening scene of Ross Valley Players Don’t Dress for Dinner that begins their 82nd (count them) season of continual operation has a marvelous gimmick (not to be mentioned here) built into Jay Lasnik’s French farm house set that brought laughter and spontaneous applause from all of the audience as the “Marseilles’” played. It was signal that fun was to come in this French sex farce romp that played for seven years in London. I guess the French and The English have something in common . . . they love sex farces.

The play is by Marc Camoletti a Parisian transplant from Italy whose claim to fame is the hilarious sex farce Boeing, Boeing that is still making the rounds at community and professional theaters. For this play, Camoletti uses two of the characters, Bernard and Robert, from that play. This time around Bernard (David Kester) is married to Jacqueline (Sondra Putnam) and has a mistress Suzanne (Marianne Shine) and once again Robert comes to visit.

Jacqueline is about to go on a trip to see her mother and sophisticated, sly manipulative Bernard has planned a birthday shindig for Suzanne and unsophisticated Robert has been invited to the party. The cook has been hired from the agency and her name is Suzette. That is sure to cause confusion and it does with both respond to the diminutive “Suzi.” Further complications are about to occur when Jacqueline intercepts a telephone call discovering that Robert is coming and she, come hell or high water, is not about to go visit dear mama because Robert is her lover.

Camoletti carefully contrives a series of misunderstandings that pile up like the multiple pillows on the two sofas that are constantly being shifted about. Director Ryan, with insistence of supervising producer Robert Wilson, does not use French accents for all but the sexy Suzanne and statuesque Marianne Shine does a great job with an occasional miscue during the hectic antics that ensue.

When the cook Suzette (Melissa Claire) arrives Robert assumes she is Suzanne and in short order (she is Cordon Bleu trained) she is conned, for a price, to go along with the charade. Alas, that means sexy Suzanne now has to pretend to be the cook and she is more of a short order cook rather than a Cordon blue chef.

There are the obligatory four doors needed before a play can be a farce. The country house is actually a converted barn with the two spare bed rooms that were formerly a cow stall and piggery. Camoletti gets a lot of laughter, really only guffaws, out of that detail but it is necessary when decisions must be made as to who would sleep where or with whom.

David Kester creates a sufficiently priggish and aloof Bernard who gradually uses all those around him to cover up his misdeeds and is deserving of the fate he is to suffer. He is well matched by Sondra Putnam playing Jacqueline with perfect control hiding her own peccadillo with consummate composure and she becomes completely believable when it is time to play the “wronged wife.” Melissa Claire is the audience favorite morphing from a frumpish ordinary girl to a seductive actress, model etc when she is stripped of her maid costume to play the role of mistress. She deserves all the money proffered her by the two timing men. Tavis Kammet is completely miscast or has been overly directed to play the dunce that is not written in the script. Casey Bair plays his brief but pivotal role as George with strength.

Director Richard Ryan has elected to use broad comedy verging on slapstick removing any touch of directorial sophistication and intricate timing to obtain maximum humor from the script. However, there are more than enough laughs to make the evening entertaining and worth seeing. Running time two hours and 10 minutes with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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