Housekeeper Berthe (Jennifer Colacino, right) tries to get rid of Bernard’s fiancée Gretchen (Christie Beckham) and friend Robert (Ben Scharff) before another fiancée arrives.
Photos: Naomi Phillips
August 25, 2015
What happens when you combine a
lothario with three fiancées, all in the
same city, and a series of snafus that
put all three women together?
Matters spring loose like a Slinky
bouncing – boing, boing – down a
flight of stairs. OK, that was a forced
double entendre, but it fits with the
hokey premise of Marc Camoletti’s
classic French bedroom farce
Boeing, Boeing, which is now on the
boards at the Sheldon Vexler Theatre.
The French premiere was in 1960,
with translator Beverly Cross’s
English version opening in London
It's irredeemably slapstick-slathered
and silly, but the piece has enough
genuinely funny moments that it
remains popular, especially after a
2008 Broadway production won a Tony award for best revival.
Set in 1960s Paris, the slim plot hinges on a Paris-based playboy American architect who has three lovely blonde fiancées, each a stewardess (for Millennials: today they are called flight attendants) with a different airline. He manages to keep them separate by recording a detailed timetable of their flight schedules. You know that can't work forever, and sure enough, the airlines are upgrading to newer, faster Boeing aircraft, which means less time away for each of the girls and more (gulp) at home. When they all threaten to descend upon him on the same day, the audience is witness to his mad – and ultimately futile – scrambling to keep his women apart.
Director Omar Leos has assembled a zany cast that clearly enjoys taking the comedy and tomfoolery over the top. At first, Robert Carenzo plays self-satisfied roué Bernard – who has no intention of marrying at all – almost straight. (“The secret,” he crows, “is being beautifully organized.”) In the second act, however, as he realizes the wings are coming off his fantasy plane, he has a gradual, riotously funny meltdown.
Ben Scharff, who is perhaps best known for his work in musicals, displays a genuine flair for physical comedy as Robert, an old friend of Bernard's who shows up unexpectedly. Bernard shares his secret(s) just as the situation begins to unravel and Robert, whose amazement soon morphs into envy, gamely tries to help hide the ladies from one another.
Jennifer Colacino almost steals the show as Bernard's best ally, the sarcastic French housekeeper, Berthe, who knows all. She makes that clear with her sour, eye-rolling facial expressions and deliciously funny, sotto voce wisecracks.
Brandi Hollsten nails the part of the lusty TWA hostess who has a final plot-twister revelation of her own, and Beth Irwin is nubile and amusing as the Alitalia hostess. Christie Beckham is another scene-stealer as Gretchen, the Lufthansa stewardess, who snaps commands or retorts with a convincing German accent, comically mobile face and hilariously fierce staccato delivery.
Mr. Leos keeps the action smooth and sensible, even during the rather plodding first act where Bernard spends too much time explaining his foolproof way of being eternally polygamous without taking that disastrous last step. He claims that with multiple fiancées he has “all the advantages of marriage and none of the drawbacks.”
Ken Frazier's handsome, beautifully appointed vintage '60s set boasts an autumnal blend of reds, greens and rust tones, accented with geometric rugs and pillows. Sara Brookes' attractive costume designs include authentic-looking air hostess uniforms and loungewear.
The production is further enhanced by Mr. Frazier's thoughtful lighting and Chad A. Miller's unobtrusive but appropriate sound.
One somewhat glaring non-period detail caught this venerable observer's eye: Robert's three suitcases all had wheels. Sure enough, a Google search revealed that a patent for wheeled luggage was issued in 1970.
That said, there are lots of laughs in Boeing, Boeing – calculated to put post performance bounce (ouch) in your step.
Boeing, Boeing runs through September 13 in the Sheldon Vexler Theatre at the Jewish Community Center. Call 302-6835.
The Vex / Boeing, Boeing
A job for air traffic control