BOEING-BOEING by Marc Camoletti is based on a French farce. It first opened on Broadway in 1965 where it lasted only 23 performances, but went on to run in London for seven years. In 2008 it was revived on Broadway, garnered rave reviews and became a big hit. The only major change in the script is that the two male characters who were originally French are now American.
Seen now almost as a period piece, this sex comedy has an air of innocence about it and is loaded with physical comedy. The characters are pretty much deliberate stereotypes. Set in 1965, BOEING-BOEING is a comic valentine to an earlier and, seen in hindsight, much simpler era.
The plot concerns Bernard, an American architect living in Paris, his three air hostess (cabin attendants these days), fiancées from three different airlines, his grumpy French maid Bertha and Robert, an old school friend who shows up unexpectedly. I leave the confusion to your imagination. No quotes from this one – it’s giddy visual slapstick.
Carl Tallent’s spacious apartment set has plenty of doors for the requisite slamming – two stage left and two stage right with upstage a swinging door to the kitchen and curtained French doors to the hallway. The furniture is appropriately mid-sixties and I loved the interchangeable paintings and photos. The lighting by John Forbes is bright and comedic while Joel Abbott’s sound is fine – especially the music choices.
There were a few opening night jitters early on, but the cast soon settled down. Amanda Ryan Paige is good as Gloria, a caricature of the “in charge” American who flies for Trans Am. Although mildly amusing, I didn’t understand the reason for her dance moves leading up to every kiss. As Gabriella, the El Italia fiancée, Kathryn Miller embodies the stereotypical emotional and smoldering Italian. Thom Miller is fine as Bernard, the lothario eventually hoist by his own petard.
As Bertha, the French maid, Sarah Carleton is very good, especially in Act II as her frustration with the shenanigans grows. Michael Keyloun shines as Robert, fresh from Ohio and obviously mind-boggled. He’s terrific with all the physical comedy, but shouldn’t his suitcases be even heavier?
For me the stand-out performance is that of the leggy Michelle Scully as Gretchen, from Lufthansa. She’s a wonderful natural comedienne and her constant switches from bubbly girlishness to Teutonic aggression are hilarious.
Anna Winter and Tracey Sullivan have done a nice job with the costumes, especially the color coordination of the three ladies, from the roses to their sleep-wear. As usual, though, a couple of the wigs are problematic. The styles for Bertha and Gloria are fine, but must they look so wiggy?
Director Kathryn Markey has put all this together with a deft touch. Early on the accents were too heavy and difficult to understand, but were much better in Act II. Miss Markey’s staging is excellent, particularly the “Aix” scene and all the physical business.
BOEING-BOEING is good hot weather entertainment. It’s light, funny and just silly enough. Be sure to stay for the entertaining curtain call.
On a scale of one to five the St. Michael’s Playhouse production of BOEING-BOEING gets four and one third covered bridges. For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.