Mistaken identity, innuendo and infidelity – all in a day’s work when you’re directing a farce.
Peggy Harris and Ian Matthews co-direct the first play of the season for Nanaimo Theatre Group, a farce called Don’t Dress for Dinner. Typically, a farce is a comedy of lies, where one lie leads to another until the characters find themselves so mired in their false stories, no way out is possible.
“Farces are fun from beginning to end,” Harris said. “Audiences love them.”
Don’t Dress for Dinner is a French farce that tells of how Bernard, played by Wes Lazaroff, takes advantage of his wife, Jacqueline, played by Ivana Ho, and her visit to her mother’s to invite his mistress for the weekend. The couple’s friend, Robert, played by Derek Carter, decides to visit and Jacqueline forgoes the weekend with her mother to entertain their friend, with whom she’s also having an affair.
Bernard tries to convince Robert to pretend he’s the one with the mistress, named Suzanne and played by Kim Charelton, while the cook, with the similar name Suzette and played by Bronwyn McNeil, is dragged into the plot as well when she turns up early and Robert mistakes her for Bernard’s girlfriend.
“Everything really unravels from there,” Harris said. “It’s about the usual – people having affairs and trying to hide them from everyone else.”
The play was written by a French author and adapted into English. Often farces feature a lot of door slamming as characters run through escape routes to avoid being caught by their spouses in their escapades. This one, however, has less door slamming and more focus on the social mores of the characters.
Some of the language was adapted, too.
“It has some fairly British phrases,” Harris said.
While the play format might be familiar to audiences, many of the faces in the cast are not. Most of the actors are taking the stage for the first or second time, said Harris.
“There’s a lot of new people on stage,” she said.
Carter performed in his first play, Something’s Afoot, at the end of last season. Ho, who plays Jacqueline, was a ballerina and although comfortable on stage, had never acted in a play. McNeil was in one of the theatre group’s annual pantomimes as a child but hasn’t been on stage in more than a decade.
Harris said her job was to draw out the talent and intelligence from all the actors.
“It’s a bit challenging but it’s much more rewarding,” she said.
Don’t Dress for Dinner at the Bailey Studio on Rosstown Road opens Oct. 6 and runs until Oct. 22 at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. on Oct. 9 and Oct. 16. Tickets $13-15.
Please call 250-758-7224 or visit www.nanaimotheatregroup.com.