theatre/dance
May 01, 2009



Comic farce familiar and funny

by Greg Boyle

The latest production at The New Theatre Restaurant is a fast-moving, laugh-a-minute comedy called Don’t Dress for Dinner, starring Jamie Farr of Mash fame. A regular performer at the Overland Park theatre, Farr is in his sixth appearance there.

In the current production, Farr has lost none of his naughty boy charm in spite of the fact that he’s been in the biz for 55 years. His first movie was Blackboard Jungle, which starred Glenn Ford, but featured a lot of young talent that went on to make big names for themselves, including Vic Morrow and Sidney Poitier. None of those stalwarts is still treading the boards except Farr. Yet more than half a century later, he remains energetic, exuberant and fun to watch. Though his thick mop is now snowy white, and his prominent proboscis still precedes him into every scene, Farr has lost none of the wit and charm that made him such a TV favorite.

Jamie Farr as Bernard has plans for a special weekend with his mistress Suzanne, played by Heidi Van, but hilarious complications get in the way.

Don’t Dress for Dinner was exceptionally well written by Marc Camoletti, and adapted by Robin Hawdon. The show is a classic farce with many of the stock characters, conventions and plot twists made popular by French dramatists dating all the way back to the 1700s.

One must never dwell on plots in farces, since they are all remarkably similar: The lead character has something he is desperately trying to hide, and calls on his best friend to help him pull off the deception. The best friend is reluctant, but eventually becomes even more involved in the lie than the originator. The lie becomes bigger and more outrageous, and the complications accelerate the action until everyone is moving at breakneck speed. Absurd situations, mistaken and false identities, fabulous plays on words, and sexual innuendo are standard fare. Don’t look for someone to root for, because everyone is all-too-humanly self-centered and venal.

In the New Theatre production, the characters have been updated to modern times, and made surprisingly believable, given the context. The wordplay is sidesplitting, and any one of the four doors could spill out a character at any moment. Director Dennis D. Hennessy has, in spectacular fashion, provided the most important element in farce, and that is timing. Every cue pick up is sharp, every entrance is brisk. Every piece of physical comedy is done crisply.

The supporting cast is outstanding. Merle Moores as Farr’s wife plays her scheming, seductive, vindictive role to a “t”. Heidi Van displays her considerable charms and charm as the coquette gold-digger. There was the opportunity to play Suzanne as dumb, which Van didn’t chose, and it made for a nice change of pace from stereotype. The best friend is Jim Korinke, who was so perfectly on target that he elicited a round of applause for one of his tongue-twisting confabulations.

In classic farce, it is usually the saucy maid whom the audience loves the most, and who gets one over on her employers. That is the exactly what happens in this show. Cathy Barnett makes us laugh time after time as she plays her upper class employers for the fools they are. In the end, she and her husband, played sweetly by Vincent Onofrio Monachino, are the ones who come out ahead. Don’t Dress for Dinner is a terrific evening of entertainment.

Jamie Farr is performingin Don’t Dress for Dinner through June 21. Call the reservations line at 913-649-7469 for tickets. Remember that the New Theatre Restaurant is a dinner theatre. For the price of a ticket, you also receive an excellent buffet dinner. There is something for everyone, even vegetarians. For more information, visit www.newtheatre.com

Greg Boyle can be contacted at gbboyle@kc.rr.com.

 


              
              
                 

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