Don't Dress for Dinner, Saucy Farce With Ben Daniels, Jennifer Tilly, Spencer Kayden, Ends Broadway Run

By Kenneth Jones
June 17, 2012

Roundabout Theatre Company ends its limited-engagement Broadway revival of Marc Camoletti's 1960-set sex farce Don't Dress for Dinner — a sort of sequel to Boeing-Boeing, featuring the same randy male characters, Robert and Bernard — June 17 at the American Airlines Theatre. For their work on the project, featured actress Spencer Kayden and costume designer William Ivey Long were 2012 Tony Award nominees.



Ben Daniels, Patricia Kalember, David Aron Damane, Adam James and Oscar nominee Jennifer Tilly also star under John Tillinger's direction.

The play opened April 26 following previews from March 30. By close, it will have played 61 performances plus 32 previews. Adapted from the French by Robin Hawdon, it focuses on middle-aged people trapped (by their own appetites) in a country house outside of Paris. A French chef named Suzette (Kayden) is mistaken for a lover. The plot thickens, like warm Bernaise sauce, after that. 

This is the Broadway premiere of a title seen in Europe, London and in American regional theatres over the past few decades. Although Bernard and Robert, philandering pals from Boeing-Boeing, are back, the plots are not linked — you don't need to taste one dish to "get" the other.

Tillinger's 2008-09 Chicago production of Don't Dress for Dinner, featuring Kayden, who won a Jeff Award for it, and Kalember is the basis for this Broadway production, which is produced in association with Damian Arnold.

Roundabout's earlier plays in its current Broadway and Off-Broadway season, including Man and Boy, Sons of the Prophet, Look Back in Anger and The Road to Mecca, dealt with dark subjects and brooding, ruminating characters. The spring is sunnier: In addition to the Camoletti farce, the not-for-profit company is producing the amiable comedy Harvey, now at Studio 54.

In Don't Dress for Dinner, according to Roundabout, Bernard's plans for a romantic rendezvous with his mistress "are complete with a gourmet caterer and an alibi courtesy of his friend, Robert. But when Bernard's wife learns that Robert will be visiting for the weekend, she decides to stay in town for a surprise tryst of her own…setting the stage for a collision course of hidden identities and outrageous infidelities. The cook is Suzette, the lover is Suzanne, the friend is bewildered, the wife is suspicious, the husband is losing his mind and everyone is guaranteed a good time at this hilarious romp through the French countryside."

Tony nominee Ben Daniels (Roundabout's Les Liaisons Dangereuses) is a guest of best pal Robert (who is Jacqueline's lover); Patricia Kalember (TV's "Sisters") is Bernard's wife, Jacqueline; Adam James (a Lortel Award winner for MCC Theater's The Pride) is Bernard; Jennifer Tilly (Roundabout's The Women, Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway") is Suzanne, Bernard's lover; and Tony Award nominee Spencer Kayden (Little Sally in Urinetown) is hired chef Suzette, who is pulled into the action. David Aron Damane (Big River, The Life) plays a surprise visitor.

Jennifer Tilly and Ben Daniels
photo by Joan Marcus

The design team includes John Lee Beatty (sets), William Ivey Long (costumes), Ken Billington (lights) and David Van Tieghem (sound).

Don't Dress For Dinner opened in Paris in 1987, under the original title Pajamas Pour Six, and ran for more than two years. Hawdon's adaptation of the original French play premiered in London at the Apollo Theatre in 1991 and ran for six years.

Boeing-Boeing, a title that first surfaced in the 1960s (and was also a film), became a staple of American regional and dinner theatres in the decades that followed. It would become a London and Broadway smash in the 21st century when director Matthew Warchus got his hands on it (it won the Best Revival Tony Award in 2008). This production of Don't Dress for Dinner does not have related producers or creatives.

Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes said in earlier Roundabout production notes that the comedy will bring some lightness to a Roundabout season that has had success with shadowy themes and characters this year. "Farce is such a unique genre, and I really want to bring our audiences a strong dose of unabashed delight," he commented. "That was what I felt when I saw John's production of Don't Dress for Dinner in Chicago — there's nothing quite like spending a whole evening laughing. I thought John had a fresh take on the play, and it feels incredibly fun and contemporary for having been written nearly 30 years ago."

Tony Award-nominated director Tillinger's Broadway credits include Absurd Person Singular with Paxton Whitehead and Deborah Rush; Say Goodnight, Gracie with Frank Gorshin; Judgment at Nuremburg with Maximilian Schell, Martha Keller and George Grizzard; Night Must Fall with Matthew Broderick; The Sunshine Boys with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall; Inherit the Wind with Charles Durning and George C. Scott (Tony Award nomination, OCC Award); Arthur Miller's Broken Glass; The Price with Eli Wallach (Tony Award nomination); Sweet Sue with Mary Tyler Moore and Lynn Redgrave; Loot! with Joseph Maher (Tony Award nomination, OCC Award); Corpse! with Milo O'Shea. Off-Broadway, he directed Tea at Five; A Picasso; House and Garden; Comic Potential; A Perfect Ganesh; Lips Together Teeth Apart; It's Only a Play; Breaking Legs; The Lisbon Traviata (Lortel Award); Love Letters (Lortel Award); The Perfect Party (OCC Award); Entertaining Mr. Sloane (Drama Desk Award).

The production understudies are Tim McGeever, Frances Mercanti-Anthony and James Andrew O'Connor. The production stage manager is Barclay Stiff. Stage manager is Kelly Beaulieu.

Tickets are available by calling Roundabout Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300, online at roundabouttheatre.org or at the American Airlines box office (227 W. 42nd Street).

View highlights from the show: