The playwright Marc Camoletti may not be a household name here in the US, but his work has been seen all over the world, touching some 55 countries and a multitude of languages. Camoletti, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 79, was arguably the modern day master of the French farce, but it’s taken a while for Americans to jump on board and appreciate his work the way the rest of the world has for so long.
You may recall that Camoletti’s Boeing-Boeing had a wonderfully-received Broadway revival just a few years ago, and I think the playwright would have been rather pleasantly surprised by that occurrence. After all, the play’s Broadway debut back in 1965 was considered to be a fairly infamous flop, in spite of running for seven years in the West End and, even more impressively, for more than nineteen years in Paris! For some reason, American audiences just didn’t respond to the piece, which may explain why Don’t Dress for Dinner, taking on the same farcical tone, never even made it to Broadway during the playwright’s lifetime. Under the original title of Pajamas Pour Six, this follow-up premiered in Paris in 1987, where it would go on to enjoy a run of more than two years. It was soon adapted into English by Robin Hawdon (whose version we will be using in Roundabout’s production), and the play would run for seven years in the West End.
A good farce is hard to find these days, and I wish I knew what made Broadway so inhospitable to Camoletti the first time around. To my mind, he does exactly what a master of comedy needs to do: he creates very real characters and then sends them spinning off their normal axes by throwing them into crazy situations. There’s an art to this genre, but Camoletti also knew that there was a bit of a science to it – with each set-up, there must be pay-off, and each minor case of mistaken identity must build upon the one before it, to bring the play to its highest points of hilarity before the evening is over. Farce in general and Don’t Dress for Dinner in particular is filled with pure joy. Watching this play is, for me, an absolute delight, and it’s easy to forget how hard it is to do something so deceptively easy so very well.
Our great director, John Tillinger, has pointed out that if the characters in Don’t Dress for Dinner had cell phones, there wouldn’t be a play at all. Living in a world that is so constantly “online” or artificially connected, there’s something wonderfully simple about stepping back into a time and place where troubles may have been more difficult to fix, but they were fixed through actual human interaction.
And in this play’s case, those interactions are fun, physical, and full of wit. I’ll say that the first half of this season was on the darker side, and I’m thrilled to be lightening up a bit with this frothy piece of work. For a multitude of reasons, I think we’re all ready to embrace Marc Camoletti’s play and simply have a few laughs. And with this fantastic group of actors and designers, I know we’ve put the piece in the right hands.
I hope that you will share your thoughts by writing a comment below or emailing me at email@example.com, and I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!
2011-2012 Season, Don't Dress for Dinner, From Todd Haimes