Don’t Dress for Dinner — and don’t see this show either. I went because I read somewhere it was really funny. It is, for about ten minutes.
But the rest is an uninspired cliche — though well performed in madcap farce style — a play about a weekend somewhere outside of Paris where the English husband thinking his English wife will be elsewhere invites his French mistress (though Jennifer Tilly makes no attempt to seem French in the role) and hires a French cook for a really sweet time but things get complicated when a family friend the wife is having an affair with shows up and the wife decides to stick around so everyone has to pretend that the cook is really the family friend’s girlfriend — or his niece, depending who’s being lied to — and that the mistress is the cook who doesn’t know how to cook and yellow gucky food ends up all over the lap of the family friend so then … oh well, you get the idea.
It’s all thoroughly predictable including the fact that who ends up with who is a mere matter of who’s available — in a word it’s crude.
The funny part? Early on, in Act I, when the mistaken identities first get going, the plain-girl cook, wittily played by Spender Hayden, enthusiastically takes on the part of an ultra-sophisticated high class French woman who tosses down her drinks and dances the tango with gusto. And for a brief while, Jennifer Tilly is amusing as the mistress thrust into role of the cook who doesn’t know her baked alaska from her quiche — basically she plays herself and that’s kind of fun.
There’s a bit of the women taking off their tops almost in sight of the audience, and Tilly eventually emerges in a soft porn corset and garter belt outfit which she makes the most of — she really is an uninhibited performer! And I did enjoy her throaty, little girl voice.
But you can be sure this sitcom a) goes on too long and b) ends — no surprise here — with a routine “whoever’s left over” partnering up for sex that leaves a bad taste that all but wipes away the interlude of good fun in Act I.
Don’t Dress For Dinner, produced by Roundabout Theatre Company, plays at the American Airlines Theatre on West 42nd Street in Manhattan.