‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’ serves up laughs at Kent County Theatre Guild

Will McVay, left, who plays Robert, and Jeff Mask, who plays Bernard, interact in the Kent County Theatre Guild production of “Don’t Dress for Dinner.” In the comedy, Bernard plans a secret weekend with his mistress and invites Robert along as a cover. However, Robert has secrets of his own. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — The Kent County Theatre Guild is bringing an adaption of the French farce, “Don’t Dress for Dinner” to the stage starting this weekend.

The show was first read by the Guild’s play committee a few years ago and at the time, the show’s director Steve Caporricio thought it was great.

He has been involved in theater for more than 40 years and has done everything from acting to directing and everything in between.

“It sounded like a really fun show and something that both the actors and the audience would really enjoy,” he said.

The road from turning a script into a play is a long one, starting on an evening with actors holding their scripts.

“When I decide on the play, I always go into auditions with an idea in my mind of what I envision each character to be,” Mr. Caporiccio said. “You see each person auditioning and have to judge what they bring to the table and if or how they fit into your vision.

“You come in the first night and hope first of all that everyone had read through the whole script, but the lines are really only the beginning.

Emilia Davis, left, who plays Bernard’s wife Suzanne, confronts Laini Bernard, who portrays the cook Suzette. The show starts tonight at the Patchwork Playhouse in Dover.

“There are a couple weeks where the main focus is just blocking, getting everyone in the right place during every scene.”

Although many of the actors at the Theatre Guild are regulars, new actors, experienced or not, are welcome to audition. Just weeks ago, Amelia Davis of Dover tried out for the first time.

“I have acted before and did monologues probably about 12 years ago, but nothing with an actual cast for more like 20 years,” she said. “I had heard about the Theatre Guild and was really looking for something new to try out so I showed up to audition and I was a little nervous but it went great.”

Ms. Davis is cast as Suzanne. Her on-stage boyfriend Bernard plans a special birthday weekend for her. The only problem is he’s married and can’t get away from his wife Jacqueline, who was to be visiting her mother.

Bernard has invited his best friend, Robert, for the weekend to provide an alibi.

“My character is used as kind of a coverup to make it look like I’m Suzanne’s boyfriend so the wife doesn’t find out about the affair,” said Dover’s Will McVay , who plays Robert.

“It seems like it would be an easy coverup but Robert has some secrets of his own that get in the way.”

The coverup leads to cases of mistaken identity and confused alibis that keep all the characters, and the audience, on their toes throughout the show.

The cast has been pretty easy for Mr. Caporiccio to direct since it’s only six actors and three crew members, and it’s also made things easier for the cast.

“Sometimes if there’s a big cast, there is the problem of different factions – people hang out in groups, a lot of times depending on their roles, so there are some people you may never get to know very well because your characters don’t interact, but that’s never an issue with a small cast like this one,” Mr. McVay said. “It’s easy to get to know each other since we are all working together as a group and it’s been really nice.”

From left, Emilia Davis makes an entrance to greet Jeff Mask and Will McVay during a recent rehearsal at the Patchwork Playhouse. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Laini Bernard of Dover, portraying the role of Suzette the cook, said that small casts are also great because everyone is willing to help one another.

“During rehearsal, there’s the opportunity to go the extra mile to help each other out and to really connect, which can be hard to do when there are a lot of people involved,” she said.

“And I think that you see the closeness and the bond we’ve created when we are on stage. Having that connection really makes a difference when we perform.”

The small cast also allows for a more open dialogue between the director and the actors.

“I always talk to my actors and if they have a great idea, we can go with it,” Mr. Caporiccio said. “We can highlight everyone’s strengths and pull together everyone’s great ideas to make something really special.”

Costumes and scenery come together while the actors get to know their lines better and better, until finally things start to gel.

“I haven’t acted in so long that I had completely forgotten about that moment,” Ms. Davis said. “During rehearsal, there’s just this moment when you look around and go ‘Wow, we really are making something.’”

Mr. Caporiccio compared the feeling of everything coming together as competing as a team.

Will McVay and Laini Bernard engage in a tug-of-war in a scene from “Don’t Dress for Dinner.” The two are among a cast of six. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“This time is going by when everyone is working together with the same goal. It’s not a very different mentality than playing a team sport,” he said.

“The dialogue is quick and there’s a good rhythm to it so it does take a lot of rehearsal for this play’s dialogue alone,” Ms. Davis said.

“But the key to comedy is good timing so we have to get it just right.”

Although people may talk quickly in real life, it’s more difficult in a play when you’re reciting a script.

“There is a good flow and it keeps the audience engaged but the timing is really difficult and if one person stumbles, everyone could get lost,” Ms. Bernard said. “But that’s why we rehearse.”

“Don’t Dress for Dinner” debuts tonight at 8 p.m. and also plays Saturday and Sept. 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10-20 and are available online at kctg.org.

The Kent County Theatre Guild’s Patchwork Playhouse is at 140 E. Roosevelt Ave., Dover.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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