Mad Man meets Mad Women: that’s the farce that is Boeing Boeing, now being staged at NextStop Theatre.
Written by French playwright Marc Camoletti in 1962, this madcap adventure involves the travails of Bernard (Matthew Baughman) as his intricate schedule of revolving air hostess fiancées slowly unravels. The new Boeing aircraft whisks his ladies to his Paris apartment far more quickly than his schedule allows for, and hilarity, as they say, ensues.
French farce is updated a bit here- but the basic formula of who-knows-what and hidden-ladies-behind-various-doors remains the same. As traditional commedia dell’arte goes, it’s Pierrot and his three Pierrettes for modern times. Some of the dialogue, though, is decidedly not modern; though Bernard’s friend Robert (the antic Alan Naylor) is initially horrified at the idea of three fiancées (none of whom are aware of the other), he gradually becomes convinced that it’s the perfect bachelor arrangement, and admires Robert to a degree that modern audiences may have some trouble with.
One would think that misogynist Robert gets his comeuppance, but, remember, the playwright was a Frenchman.
The three air hostesses (Suzy Alden as Gloria from American Airlines, Jenny Girardi as Gabriella from Air Italia, and Emily Levey as Gretchen from Lufthansa), are each nicely delineated by airline and fine costumes by Kristina Martin- red for America, Blue from Italy, and yellow from Germany.
The sixth person in the cast is the character who provides dry, running commentary on all the shenanigans, and she’s by far the most enjoyable to watch. As Berthe, the ascerbic French housekeeper, Karen Novak has the most delicious lines, and doesn’t even need to speak to make us howl with laughter; on more than one occasion a deep sigh or a sideways glace was enough to stop the action.
Mention must be made of the superior set by Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden, with multiple levels, stairs, doors, and a decidedly retro vibe with its sunken living room, kidney shaped coffee table, and overlong wraparound couch.
That couch is supplied with a multitude of pillows, and in one nicely staged scene, provides Gretchen, the emotional German stewardess (the grandly comic Emily Levy) a good deal of bouncy ammunition to fling at poor hapless Robert.
closes May 7, 2017
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By Act 2, though, the script has run its course plotwise, and the play meanders a bit. Such a thin premise can only stretch so far. Doors slam, stewardesses pop out like Jack-In-The-Boxes, and there’s a palpable valley where one can lose interest. None of this is the cast’s fault- if anything, each brings as much character as possible to such cardboard figures. And it’s in the nature of farce that fast and snappy can also mean repetition.
It’s a 60s romcom, really; well acted and, yes, predictable, lightweight entertainment – but still likeable for all that.
Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti . Translated from the French by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans . Director: Evan Hoffman . Cast: Matthew Baughman as Bernard; Alan Naylor as Robert; Karen Novak as Berthe; Suzy Alden as Gloria (American); Jenny Girardi as Gabriella (Italian); Emily Levey as Gretchen (German) . Asst Director, Properties Coordinator: Jessica Dubish . Sound Designer: Reid May . Lighting Designer: Sarah Tundermann . Costume Designer: Kristina Martin . Stage Manager: Laura Moody . Produced by: NextStop Theatre Company . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.