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French farce ‘Le Dindon’ promises to bring laughs that transcend language

| Thursday, January 16, 2014

French_WEBSTEPH WULZ | The Observer

French farce “Le Dindon,” (“the turkey,” in English, also translated as “sauce for the goose”) comes to the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center this weekend, in a production starring a cast of Notre Dame students.

The play, written in 1896 by the French playwright Georges Feydeau and performed in French, follows the virtuous and faithful Lucienne, a woman who has vowed never to cheat on her husband, unless he goes behind her back first, as different suitors compete for her love. Old lovers and the police cross paths in hotel rooms and love nests as the different couples in the play attempt to be unfaithful, all coming together for a highly physical farce.

Don’t speak French? It’s not a problem. Paul McDowell, the play’s director and Notre Dame French professor, says the play can be understood and laughed at, whether the French line readings are understood or not.

The production is through McDowell’s signature course, French Theatre Production, a class that he created in 1991 and that has produced a play in French at Notre Dame every year since. He says this year’s entry is another in a long line of successful and entertaining performances.

“The productions from this course have wowed thousands of spectators at Notre Dame, showcasing the talents of Notre Dame undergraduates performing the great comic works of French theatre from Molière to Musset. ‘Le Dindon’ promises to live up the high standards of our past productions  ⎯  high energy, lots of laughs (even for those who don’t speak a word of French), period costumes and a few new twists this year,” McDowell said.

The students in the play said they have all taken French classes but not all of them are fluent, and that for most of them this is their first acting experience at Notre Dame. Two of them even play characters whom are supposed to be a British couple speaking in French, and said they had to learn to speak French with a bad British accent. They were also able to explain the figurative title as it translates to English.

“The dindon [the turkey] has been cheated on by his wife and is a cuckold, and it’s just sort of not a good term to be called. The play is just a farce about misunderstanding and situational humor and couples who are convinced that their partners are cheating on them, and then they get it in their heads that they’d like to cheat on their spouse, and it’s just a mess,” Jessica Peck, a sophomore in the play, said.

The actors seconded Professor McDowell’s assertion that the comedy translates across any language, and also said that a summary of the play will be provided for audience members so they can keep up with the plot even if they don’t speak French.

“Physical French farce, it’s a funny French farce, that’s the best way to put it,” Peck said.

“Le Dindon” opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Regis Philbin Theater in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center and runs through Sunday. Tickets are $5, and can be purchased at the DPAC box office or online at performingarts.nd.edu

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About Kevin Noonan

I'm a senior from Kansas City studying Marketing with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. I've written for The Observer since I was a freshman, and now serve as editor for Scene.

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