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A Frantic Farce

CAN-ACT play laughs at lovers and mistresses


Want to forget about your tax bills and world problems? Head for Karcher Mall in Nampa for a jolly romp about four ridiculous people (or are they?) who get embroiled in an impossible extramarital situation (or is it?) and spend the evening thrashing about in a quagmire of riotous mistaken identities.

The CAN-ACT theater group presents the French farce Don't Dress for Dinner for the next two weekends, and director Barb Brookshire has assembled a talented cast, jumping into the fray herself as Suzette the cook-a plum role about a character who outwits all the supposedly smart rich folks she works for.

The play is set at the country home of a seemingly affectionate husband and wife, Bernard and Jacqueline, played with brittle gaiety by Randall Webster and Camilla Schell. Jacqueline is getting ready to leave for a weekend visit with her mother, to the apparent glee of Bernard, until she learns that Bernard's best friend, Robert, is about to arrive for a visit. From their phone conversation, we learn Jacqueline and Robert are longtime lovers and she immediately cancels her trip. Naturally, Bernard is distraught at this change in plans, since he was also planning on entertaining his mistress, Suzanne. He had even hired a caterer to prepare a gourmet meal for his guests.

Thinking fast, Bernard begs Robert to pretend Suzanne is his mistress. Not a good idea, but he doesn't know why Robert is so resistant to perform this favor. Confused? Don't worry, it gets worse (or better as far as comedy goes) and far more complicated after the cook arrives and is mistaken for the mistress.

It's all very sophisticated and edgy and gives CAN-ACT veteran actor Webster a chance to be at his hyper-nervous best as the cheating husband dancing on the edge of disaster. Schell, as the unfaithful wife, has a temper to match her flaming red hair, and adds style and humor to her character, though at times her rather flamboyant reactions are too broad for such a small theater.

Rodney Horn is perfect as the hapless friend Robert, caught in the middle of the intrigue with his own secret to hide. His frantic behavior as he tries to conceal his affair with Bernard's wife and placate her rage at his apparent affair with Suzanne is constantly hilarious. Pencil-thin Jailene-Marie Rose (Suzanne) is a bit subdued compared to the rest of the cast, but her dazzling smile makes her as elegant as the model she portrays, even with her arms and nose adorned in flour from her hopeless attempts at cooking.

Brookshire, the gum-chewing cook Suzette, slouches on stage in her jeans and decorative chains, expecting to simply cater a meal. Instead she winds up playing multiple roles, and getting well paid for each of them.

Eugene Smith, as the surprise visitor George, is a towering man to be reckoned with in his black leather jacket, steel tipped boots and blunt speech.

Because of the absurd substance of this farce, the pace is vitally important, and unfortunately, on opening night, there were some slow moments and fumbled, unsure lines. Hopefully these problems will disappear as the cast settles into the rhythm of the script. The charming country setting was designed by Brookshire and built by her and Webster, and the set decor with its old-fashioned quilt, bird houses and baskets were artfully dressed by Sharona Holsclaw. In the play, the house was originally a barn, so the bedrooms converted into a cowshed and piggery provide frequent verbal humor.

And humor is the name of the game in Don't Dress for Dinner as the cast dresses-and undresses-in unexpected ways, all adding to the play's frantic antics and fun.

Don't Dress for Dinner

Written by Marc Camoletti; adapted by Robin Hawdon.

Directed by Barb Brookshire

Presented by CAN-ACT theater, upstairs at Karcher Mall, Nampa

8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through May 21; 7 p.m. Thursday, May 19

Matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 14

Tickets $7 on Thursday & matinee; $8 on Fridays and Saturdays

For reservations call 442-0676; or online at