Audience Review: DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER at Narberth Community Theater

by Patricia Bradford

Do wear your raincoat tonight when you DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER. There is already plenty of dressing and undressing in this fast moving, physical farce directed by Scott Grumling. The dialogue moves even faster than the actors, and the actors handle it beautifully, accents and all.

Bernard (T. Patrick Ryan) and his loving wife Jacqueline (Lauren Kerstetter) are busily preparing for a weekend apart, a premise that unravels within minutes when news that friend Robert (Anthony Marsala) is planning to visit. Kerstetter is sexy and delightfully duplicitous as Jacqueline, craftily rearranging a schedule that will keep her at home. Ryan is also a smooth schemer with plans of his own as he insistently pushes his agenda and takes advantage of Robert’s longstanding friendship. The two actors work really well together, establishing a rapport that suggests an extended acquaintance that is then thoroughly strained by each man’s dance of deception. Marsala is both slippery and honorable, stalwart and frantic, as he tries his best to keep everyone happy and himself out of trouble.

The first layer of lies is in place when Suzi appears at the door. Shelli Pentimall Bookler is outstanding as Suzi realizes the role she has been asked to play is not the one she expected – and how she can make this work to her advantage. Her role is the most physically demanding as she dances, falls, and is propelled around by other characters. She also transforms from a forgettable domestic to the knock-out Bernard thought he was describing when he spoke of Suzanne. Suzanne (Leah O’Hara) is the next to arrive and discovers that she is the wrong Suzi, or the right one, depending. She catches on to the unusual change in situation pretty quickly, and O’Hara out of her element is a lot of fun. Second Suzi is a strong woman, clearly overwhelmed by the prospect of a spatula.

Showing up to provide a ride is Suzi’s husband George (Vinny Ali). Which Suzi? Ali’s gracious smile thinly hides the threat that he may be a little dangerous under the surface. His aura of friendly menace heightens the tension as the players sort out the Suzies. Who ends up in The Cowshed with whom, and who may be exiled to the Piggery? Join the fun, DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER ends its run this weekend.

Narberth Community Theater, 6376 City Avenue (Overbrook Presbyterian Church at the corner of City Line and Route 30), Philadelphia, PA 19151

Narberth Community Theater

Review submitted by:
Anne Lannak

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