Offering seven weekly roundtrip flights to Paris, via the swinging sixties, Rep Stage is currently flying Boeing Boeing direct from the Smith Theatre at Howard Community College.Camoletti’s original play was wildly popular in Paris when it premiered in the early 1960s and remained so when it made it to London in a translation by Beverly Cross. The 1965 Broadway production was grounded after just over 20 performances and not even Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis could make the film version take off that same year.
Boeing Boeing’s fortunes on this side of the Atlantic changed dramatically after a successful West End revisal (script changes by Francis Evans) played New York for the better part of a year and won the 2008 Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Regional theatres took notice and it has been a regular addition to theatres large and small for the last several years.
I certainly see the appeal of Boeing Boeing. Handsome American expatriate Bernard (James Whalen) is living in Hugh Hefner style in a smart Parisian flat. The charming roué has carved a life where he entertains a trio of international air hostesses, each one thinking the other is Bernard’s one and only.
Using the varying timetables of TWA, Alitalia, and Lufthansa, Bernard juggles nubile New Yorker Gloria (Molly Cahill Govern), passionate Italian Gabriella (Kelsea Edgerly), and the formidable German, Gretchen (Allison Leigh Corke). Such unwedded bliss is insured as long as Bernard stays on top of the schedules so he can stay on top of one stewardess at a time, while the other two are offering coffee, tea or cocktails at 30,000 feet.
Playboy Bernard depends on his very dry and sardonic housekeeper, Bertha (Nanna Ingvarsson), to switch out his-and-her photos and to make the correct national dishes for each of the girlfriends.
It should come as no surprise that life gets more complicated for the airline lothario. As the flight attendants speed up their departures and arrivals due to faster air service, Bernard also gets an impromptu visit from an old school chum, Robert Lambert (Paul Edward Hope) from Wisconsin. Wide-eyed amazement gives way to healthy envy as Robert is seduced into sampling the multinational buffet that parades through his friend’s apartment. Robert also joins Bertha and Bernard with spinning the romantic revolving doors.
The audience’s delight comes primarily from Robert’s attempts to help hide the three girls from one another. Bertha’s wry commentary on the sexually liberated situations also elicits plenty of laughs. As a whole, Boeing Boeing is a rather tame sex farce, French origins notwithstanding. It’s perfectly fine that the sex factor is nearly rated G – some heavy petting and the ladies parade around in some modest lingerie.
My boeuf with Boeing Boeing is that the stakes never feel high enough, perhaps because Bernard was just pretending to be engaged to three women. When wives are hidden from mistresses (and vice versa) danger lurks around every corner.
When the misunderstandings pile up to near tragic levels, the machine of farce ensnares both the characters and the audience in first class seats. Boeing Boeing feels like you’re flying coach.
Director Karl Kippola keeps the Rep Stage cast of Boeing Boeing going going through the play at an energetic pace. He has assembled a cast that rises above the material. As Bernard, Whalen looks every bit the sophisticated playboy who is really more domesticated than his lifestyle lets on.
Closes May 5, 2013
Rep Stage – Horowitz Center
10901 Little Patuxent Parkway
2 hours, 30 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $35 – $40
Wednesdays thru Sundays
Kippola’s staging is aided by the nicely appointed, upscale Parisian flat designed by Daniel Ettinger, with lighting design by Jason Arnold. Seven doors, and bachelor’s pad chic furniture complement the stage. Also giving atmosphere and period flavor, Matt Straka and Neil McFadden’s sound design includes some great songs – in English, Italian and German – from the time period, including Frank Sinatra’s essential “Come Fly with Me.”
This game and handsome production can only lift off so far, given the relatively tame script by Marc Camoletti. As farces go, Boeing Boeing offers high amusement rather than belly laughs.
Boeing Boeing by By Marc Camoletti, translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans . Directed by Karl Kippola . Features James Whalen, Paul Edward Hope, Allison Leigh Corke, Molly Cahill Govern, Kelsea Edgerly and Nanna Ingvarsson. Design Team includes Daniel Ettinger (scenic design), Jason Arnold (lighting design), Matt Straka (sound design), Natalia Chavez Leimkuhler (properties design), Jennifer Tardiff Beall (costume design), Raine Bode (production stage manager) and Nancy Krebs (vocal and dialect coach). Produced by Rep Stage . Reviewed by Jeffrey Walker.