Story: Bernard is an architect, and a very successful one at that. When he’s not designing fancy buildings, he’s designing romantic conquests from his fabulous apartment in Paris. When his old chum Robert pays an unexpected visit, Bernard is delighted to welcome him and promptly introduces Robert to his fiancée, an American stewardess named Gloria.
Since it’s 1960 and schedules for flight attendants being what they are, Gloria often is out of town on assignment. That’s just fine with Bernard, who informs Robert after Gloria’s departure that he has two other fiancées in the same line of work as well. Gabriella is a lovely lass who works for an Italian airline, while German beauty Gretchen earns her income as an employee of Lufthansa.
Bernard keeps the trio in the dark about his arrangement with the notable assistance of his maid Berthe. It’s a bit of a lark and a laugh to Bernard until an untimely storm and some impromptu schedule changes leave all three fiancees in Paris at the same time. Suddenly, Bernard isn’t laughing, and implores his pal Robert to bail him out of his predicament.
Highlights: Wikipedia reports that the French farce Boeing, Boeing, written by Marc Camoletti and first produced in 1960, was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1991 as the most-performed French play throughout the world. The English version, translated by Beverley Cross, ran in London for more than seven years.
A 1965 movie version starred Jerry Lewis, Tony Curtis and Thelma Ritter, while a 2008 production on Broadway garnered the Tony Award for Best Revival. Now, Dramatic License Productions has mounted a local version designed by director Brad Schwartz to keep his sextet of players frantically frolicking on a set that features six doors and seemingly limitless combinations of characters at any one time with often riotous results.
Other Info: The problem with farce, though, is this: The longer it takes to set up a moment or a skit, the more time an audience has to ponder the silliness inherent in the script. At a running time of two and a half hours, including intermission, there are simply way too many languid moments in this presentation when one yearns for quick action and resultant laughter.
It was encouraging, though, to see a capacity house last Saturday night at the Dramatic License Theater to check out the comedy. Schwartz is an accomplished director who knows how to coax winning performances out of a cast, so it was puzzling to notice the show drag on several occasions.
That’s not to say there aren’t abundant laughs in its two acts, just that pacing needs to be picked up considerably to ensure maximum humor potential, particularly in the drearily long second act.
While everyone has his or her moment to shine, the show picked up considerably when Emily Baker burst on the scene as the assertive, determined Gretchen. Baker commands the stage both with a deftly humorous German accent and a careless abandon with physical humor as she throws herself about the furniture assembled by props mistress Peggy Knock on Scott Schoonover’s cozy but effective set.
As previously mentioned, those six doors, plus an entryway, are put to very good use by the players throughout the performance.
John Reidy earns his share of laughs with a droll and delightful portrayal of the flummoxed Robert, who gets way more than he bargained for with his spontaneous visit to old pal Bernard. Reidy’s exasperation and desperate attempts to keep the three young ladies ignorant of each other make for some hilarious moments in the best farcical tradition.
Chad Morris is amusing as the cocky and carefree Bernard and then engaging as the blustery bachelor comes apart at the seams when his apartment suddenly becomes over-crowded. As the impervious maid, Kim Furlow brings a wry, deadpan approach to Berthe, a distaff combination of Inspector Clouseau and a proper English maid, albeit French in this case.
Natasha Toro and Deanna Mazdra convey their own share of laughs in the proceedings and add to the hilarity as they roam Bernard’s (and their) apartment most quizzically when Robert informs them where they may and may not go.
Costume designer Cherol Thibaut puts the short skirts of the stewardesses to good comedic use, Tony Anselmo adds lighting and Nancy Bell has each of the flight attendants, as well as Berthe, conversing in fine respective dialects for Texas, France, Italy and Germany, even if all of them are speaking the queen’s English.
Speeding up the action by 15 minutes would go a long way to providing a higher level of sustained frivolity. Still, Boeing, Boeing flies high with the laughs whenever it manages to stay airborne.
Play: Boeing, Boeing
Group: Dramatic License Productions
Venue: Dramatic License Theatre, upper level, Chesterfield Mall
Dates: March 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17
Tickets: $18-$25; contact 636-220-7012 or DramaticLicenseProductions.org
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of John Lamb and Zachary Stefaniak