The characters are the same, but the story is different.
But not too different because Marc Camoletti’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner” is a sequel to his “Boeing Boeing,” the 1950s-set comedy. Bernard’s wandering eye is still getting him into trouble when Theatre Baton Rouge opens its production on Friday.
Last year, the theater staged Camoletti’s prequel, where main character Bernard is juggling romances with three stewardesses of different nationalities. He’s married to one of them when “Don’t Dress for Dinner” opens, but he’s really interested in a model named Suzanne, played by Eileen Peterson.
This is where the fun begins because Bernard, played by Phil Blanchard, invites “Boeing Boeing” buddy Robert, played by Enrico Cannalla, to dinner to waylay suspicion of a weekend rendezvous with Suzanne in his French farmhouse.
Bernard’s Italian wife, Gabriella, played by Aron Coates, is going out of town, so the coast should be clear, right? Wrong. The joke’s on Bernard.
“Bernard can’t help himself,” Blanchard said. “He no longer has to pursue Gabriella, so he’s lost interest, but he doesn’t realize that Gabriella is bored with him.”
Gabriella has begun a romance of her own with none other than Robert, who doesn’t know why Bernard has invited him to dinner, so he and Gabriella plan their own romantic weekend in the farmhouse.
The farcical circle isn’t complete until cordon bleu cook Suzette, played by Shannon Harger, makes her entrance. Bernard has hired her to prepare gourmet delights for his faux dinner, but as his story becomes twisted in lies, Suzette must pretend to be his mistress and model Suzanne has to step into the role of the chef.
And Suzanne can’t cook.
“It’s a story that’s wound so tight that the audience will wonder how the characters are going to get out of this,” director Kevin Harger said.
The play, Harger’s favorite comedy, “has been in the back of my head for a long time,” he said. “I enjoyed the whole story line and the way it develops. You’ve got so many odd relationships and lies, and they’re all trying to untie this knot, which is half the fun for the audience.”
Harger, who also directed “Boeing Boeing,” says ‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’ is better “because the writing is tighter.’
“The timing is not so much in the door-slamming comedy, but with the actors,” he said, “which makes it even more critical.”
The cast includes three actors from “Boeing Boeing,” with only Coates reprising her role as Gabriella, a fiery tempered Italian stewardess in the first story.
“At her core, she’s still the same passionate woman she was in the first play,” Coates said. “She’s still green in her relationship with Bernard.”
And Bernard is about to get his comeuppance because even the cook is profiting from the charade.
“Suzette is willing to go along with all their nonsense, but they have to pay her extra,” Shannon Harger said. “But then her husband comes in.”
His name is George, played by Nick Moore, and his entrance causes the inevitable trainwreck.
“It’s a fun farce, and it has its fair amount of slapstick,” Harger said. “This is probably the best-written farce, and we’re having fun with it.”