At first glance, “Don’t Dress For Dinner” appears to be a story about a marriage falling apart.
Dave Marsh, directing a production of the farce, which opens Friday at Centralia’s Evergreen Playhouse, said he actually sees it as a story about love.
“Reading through this script the first time, it gives a humorous take on infidelity and how it can go horribly wrong but as I delve into it, there’s more to it than that,” Marsh said.
Set in 1960s at a posh, remodeled French country home, “Don’t Dress for Dinner” tells the story of a married couple Bernard (portrayed by Dan Overton) and Jacqueline (portrayed by Nicole Galyean) who have both taken lovers and are attempting to keep their clandestine relationships a secret. The suave (at least in his own mind) Bernard has invited his lover Suzanne (portrayed by Brittany Wilcox) to his house for the weekend thinking Jacqueline will be gone. But when plans change, he quickly scrambles to invite his best friend Robert (portrayed by Matthew Michael), planning to use him as an alibi. But what Bernard doesn’t know is that Robert is actually Jacqueline’s lover, so he knows both Bernard and Jacqueline’s secret.
“(Bernard) really believes that he can maintain control of the situation that is spiraling out of control,” Overton said. “It’s sort of like a reverse Jenga game. Every time he tried to fix something, he makes it more unstable.”
When the cook, Suzette, (portrayed by Andrea Gordon) gets mistaken for Suzanne everyone’s alibis get turned on their heads. Suzette’s husband George (portrayed by Kevin McManus) adds another layer of improvisation for Robert and Bernard as they struggle to explain everyone’s roles in the household and keep their own secrets from the wrong people.
“It’s kind of like Jerry Springer because you don’t know who is going to end up with who,” Galyean said. “I think the audience is going to start pulling for different characters and trying to predict how it’s going to come out in the end.”
Overton and Galyean previously portrayed a husband and wife team in “Blithe Spirit.” Overton said he was pleased to be acting with Galyean again, especially since this time his wife does not die. Overton said “Don’t Dress for Dinner” was the first script he has ever laughed out loud while reading through. But he added that it was his fellow cast members that really made him want to be part of the Evergreen Playhouse staging of the show.
“As an actor I said ‘oh, this is going to be fun,’” Overton said. “And then I looked at who I get to act with and I said ‘this is going to be a lot of fun.’”
Marsh also said it is the work of the cast that make this production of “Don’t Dress for Dinner” a not-to-miss event. He last directed a cast of more than 20 in “Scrooge the Musical” during Christmas 2018. He said his main background is in musicals and going from musicals to a straight show and a cast of dozens to just six was an adjustment. But he said he feels he has a really strong cast and having fewer characters has allowed them more time for collaboration.
“We’ve had more time to talk about character development,” Marsh said.
“Don’t Dress for Dinner” is a dialogue-heavy show with sexual situations and innuendos, which Marsh said may not hold the attention or be appropriate for younger children.
“How I’ve explained it to a lot of people is that if it was on network television, it would probably run after 9 p.m.,” Marsh said.