The Dupe is a Scandalous Affair
The fast-paced ninety-minute farce is hysterical from start to finish.By Jamie Coelho, RI Monthly
Illicit affairs aren’t just a crutch of the modern-day television series. The Victorian-age play Le Dindon or The Dupe, is like an episode of “The Real Housewives” of XYZ with historical context. The 2nd Story Theatre play takes on the cheating husband and his wife’s mission to catch him in the act, not so much to vilify him, but to justify her own future transgressions.
The fast-paced ninety-minute farce is hysterical from start to finish with exceptional performances by the leading lady Lucienne (Ashley Hunter Kenner), who plays the deceptively innocent wife of Vatelin (Tom Bentley) who has a ginger on the side. Kenner’s cadence and temperament steal the show as she attempts to uncover her husband’s infidelity while at the same time having an above-the-sheets affair with his best friend Redillon (Jeff Church). There’s also another potential lover waiting in the wings, a man named Pontagnac (Ara Boghigian), who follows her around town and later discovers she’s the wife of a man he knows quite well. He’s the one who helps her plot Vatelin’s demise after she says she’d gladly complete the act with the first man that came along if her husband is caught being unfaithful.
The play takes place in Paris, France, and was written by Georges Feydeau in 1896, but you’d never guess given the all too familiar storyline. In France, extra-marital affairs are more tolerated (take the President of France and his lover, for example) as long as the offending partner gets away with it, that is. All the intertwining relationships and love triangles make for one hot mess on the 2nd Story stage.
The second act of the play takes place in a hotel room where guest assignments are switched up and an unexpected elderly couple settles into the room where Lucienne expects to catch her husband in the act. This same room was formerly inhabited by her own suitor Redillon on a tryst with a harlot. You can imagine the ridiculous scenes that unfold behind closed doors. Luckily, the audience gets to play voyeur and peek inside.
The third act is possibly the funniest part of the play, taking place in Redillon’s apartment, where his bedroom is a revolving door of women and his manparts can’t keep up with demand. Meanwhile, his servant Jerome, played by the perfectly cast John Michael Richardson, delivers some of the best lines in the play as it’s clear he has a crush on the master of the home.
Though the plotline is scandalous and the subject matter is X-rated, the play itself never shows much more than a knee. The set design, by Trever Elliott, with scene paintings by Candis Dixon and Ken Resseger, is a must-see with floor-to-ceiling murals of Victorian masterpieces. All in all, The Dupe’s drama is just as fun to watch unfurl as former President Bill Clinton’s misdemeanors with Monica Lewinsky.