‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’ serves up fun, fast-paced French farce

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 5, 2015

 Rick Mason and Kristin Schultes play a philandering husband and his mistress in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” a comedy that revolves around mistaken identities and deception.

Rick Mason and Kristin Schultes play a philandering husband and his mistress in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” a comedy that revolves around mistaken identities and deception.

Photo by Dale Pegg, courtesy of Grosse Pointe Theatre

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Members of most Grosse Pointe Theatre casts get close to each other, but that’s especially true in GPT’s latest production, the outrageous comedy “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”

“Everybody is kissing everybody,” director Rachel Settlage, of Grosse Pointe City, acknowledged of the French farce, which involves an unfaithful husband and his mistress, a series of mistaken identities and a romantic weekend gone awry.

Written by French playwright Marc Camoletti, who also penned “Boeing-Boeing,” “Don’t Dress for Dinner” opens with a matinee at 2 p.m. March 8. The show runs through March 21.

Rick Mason, of St. Clair Shores, plays the cheating husband, Bernard, and John Leo, of Grosse Pointe City, plays his best friend, Robert — a man with a secret romance of his own.

“I love doing farce,” said Mason, who has become friends in real life with Leo. “Farce is one of my favorite genres to be a part of.”

Having been in rehearsals for weeks, the actors are now ready to stage the show and enjoy the energy that only comes from a live audience.

“The fun will be when we get an audience,” Mason said. “Every night (during the run), it’s fresh for us because they’ll react to different things.”

Settlage expressed a similar sentiment.

“A show like this is entirely dependent on the cast,” she said. “And they bring something new to it every time.”

As the lies build up, Leo said, the challenge is to remain in the right character depending on whom Robert is interacting with at that moment.

“I have a phenomenal cast,” Settlage said. “And they’re fearless. A lot of people are taking falls.”

Unlike movies, which have green screens and stunt doubles for action sequences, in live theater, the actors really do have to fall and get slapped. Although the actors say there are tricks to lessen the possibility of injury, ultimately, “We just do our best to be careful,” Leo said.

Kristin Schultes, of Grosse Pointe Park, plays the mistress Suzanne, a model/actress Schultes said is “very sultry, but not the brightest bulb.” Having done musicals and drama before with GPT, Schultes said she was excited to have a chance to do a comedy.

“It’s a brilliant script to work with, but probably some of the funniest moments of the show are the physical comedy moments,” she said. “The challenge is keeping it fresh, so the audience isn’t expecting what will happen next. It provides us with a lot of opportunities to be creative.”

Settlage and Jenni Carmichael Clark, of Royal Oak, who plays Bernard’s wife, Jacqueline, both likened the dialogue to that of “The West Wing,” a TV show that featured rapid-fire banter.

“It’s very fast-paced language and very fast-paced entrances and exits, which makes it hard, but my actors have risen to the challenge,” Settlage said.

Carmichael Clark said her character, a former flight attendant, is a “sexy, mischievous, playful woman” who has found a way to get back at her unfaithful husband.

“It’ll keep the audience on their toes,” she said of the many twists and turns in the plot.

The cast also includes Siena Hassett, of Grosse Pointe Park, as Suzette, an opportunistic Cordon Bleu chef, and Michael McDowell-Parker, of Grosse Pointe Woods, as an over-the-top French chef named George.

The director said she’s taken some liberties with the show to eliminate references that only European audiences would understand — written in French, “Don’t Dress for Dinner” was translated into English for British audiences. Settlage said she’s also tried to get rid of some cultural stereotypes and make the characters more real and relatable.

“What I’ve tried to do from the get-go is to try to have fun,” Settlage said. “If the cast is having fun, the audience is having fun. And that’s the whole purpose (of the show). … You end up liking all of the characters at the end.”

The show is also a way for audiences to get away from the cold, ice and snow.

“They can expect to laugh a lot,” Settlage said. “It moves very quickly. Really, this will be a good time at the theater, which is also good in this horrible, horrible, sad weather.”

There’s only one thing that could put a damper on all of this gleefully zany mayhem: germs.

“They’re all kissing each other, so if one of (the actors) gets a cold, they’re all going down,” Settlage said.

GPT productions are staged at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial, 32 Lake Shore in Grosse Pointe Farms. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $18. For tickets or more information, call (313) 881-4004 or visit www.gpt.org.