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‘Dinner’ transforms formulaic script

It’s rare to come across a production you love of a script you detest.

Las Vegas Little Theatre’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner” is, on paper, a formula French boulevard comedy (by Marc Camoletti and Robin Hawdon) more silly than funny. But director Jay Joseph and his expert cast transform this twaddle into near nonstop laughter.

Middle-aged husband Bernard (John Ivanoff) is trying to get wife Jacqueline (Barbara King) to visit her mother so he can have a fling with young, attractive Suzanne (Sarah Spraker). He’s got friend Robert (Tony Blosser) coming over as a cover. Winds up wife is also having an affair — with Robert, no less. When she finds out Robert’s on his way, she stays put.

Bernard tries to cover up his infidelity by passing Suzanne off as Robert’s mistress, which doesn’t thrill Jacqueline any. But of course, she can’t say anything, or her husband will know what she’s been up to. Add a couple of more characters, a few mistaken identities, and you have an evening of loony people trying to make sense of the nonsensical.

From the first moment, Joseph finds the right tone. He and the actors establish a firm reality base that allows us, against all odds, to believe in this world. The playing style is fast, light-hearted but never ridiculous. The performers uncover the logic in their actions.

Ivanoff is amusingly droll and dry as the philandering husband. His line deliveries drip with good-natured deceit. King is an elegant Jacqueline, which makes her frequent loss of control more comical than it deserves to be. You always believe she believes every nutty thing her character says. And Gillen Brey, as a cook who’s mistaken for a mistress, is sensuously hefty, strong-voiced, pleasantly domineering, and blessed with impeccable timing.

Courtney Sheet’s costumes — which vary from high-priced sleaze to working class frumpiness — contribute to an unusual amount of visual dazzle.

You may forget this show 10 minutes after you’ve seen it. But while I was watching it, I didn’t much care.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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