Pleasure. Variety. It’s the ideal life; three fiancées, one apartment, and a wild ride. Just so long as the girls don’t find out about each other. Kicking off the new year with a madcap comic farce, Fells Point Corner Theatre proudly presents a smashingly successful production of Boeing Boeing, written by the French playwright Marc Camoletti. The English language adaptation used here was translated by Beverley Cross.
Directed by Josh Shoemaker, this hilarious farce takes place in the middle of the 60’s in Paris—the city of love—where the airline stewardesses are hoppin’, happenin’, and hot! With impeccably executed comic timing, intensely expressed characters, and a set to die for, this production is one heck of a firecracker; a perfect way to kick off the new year.
Set Designer Roy Steinman captures the essence of farcical chaos in the wall painting that covers the set from one edge to the other and straight over all the doors. It’s disorienting yet strikingly beautiful; a reflective hint of the calamity that is about to arise within the walls of Bernard’s apartment. Steinman’s choices of goldenrod and vibrant orange, offset against olive and sea-foam greens create an authentic pop-modern look popular in the 60’s, especially for those aspiring to the haute couture appeal of the Parisian fashion scene. The vibrant background that Steinman has created adds a pulsation of inspiring energy to the scenes, making everything just a tiny bit more lively.
It’s not easy to encompass the essence of sexuality while still appearing somewhat modest, but Costume Designer Helenmary Ball does exactly that with the varying airline uniforms she presents to each of the three stewardesses. Sharp, crisp uniforms that are short of skirt and bright of color accentuate each girl’s unique physique— from the short and quaint American dressed up in classic black to the harsh pea green that accentuates the ‘legs forever’ effect on the German stewardess. Ball keeps the costumes tactful with a subtle hint of sensual spice, making the three lovely ladies that much more enticing as they make their grand entrances.
Director Josh Shoemaker finds the perfect balance in the romantic notions of this farce and plays them truthfully while still garnering a fair deal of laughter from the audience. Shoemaker masters the equilibrium of over-the-top melodramatics, juxtaposing it against situational humor in a way that makes the entire story enjoyable, and a rather uproarious romp. His understanding of comic timing is flawless and he imparts this knowledge to his cast so that frantic entrances and exits— involving the doors— are executed with a seamless routine that only serves to add further hilarity to the show.
The play’s success hinges on the great comic execution and the dynamic characters that are crafted on the stage by the performers. Several of these characters end up being larger than life and the actresses playing them exceed expectations in their delivery. Each of the three airline stewardesses are a force to be reckoned with in their own right, and make for a series of explosively hilarious moments on stage. Their wily feminine nature juxtaposes perfection against the charming, albeit clueless gents in the show, Bernard (Adam Bloedorn) and Robert (David Shoemaker).
David Shoemaker is the epitome of calm when it comes to stress in a farcical situation. Watching him plot on the spot ways to slip out of trouble makes for a great deal of comic gold. Pairing this against Bloedorn’s spastic expressions once things go awry makes for a great deal of entertainment. It’s Shoemaker’s unflappable attitude toward the situation as a whole that keeps his character both realistic and amusing; even when he finds himself in the middle of tangled deceptions, treacherous flirtations, and diabolical moments of sheer comic bliss.
Gloria (Wesley Niemann) is the American girl, a gentle but stereotypically obnoxious simplistic woman, and perhaps the mildest of the three. Niemann approaches the character with a congeniality that makes her sweet but bland. This works for her character’s progression as she shows her true colors late in act II with sharp poignant barbs aimed at no one in particular, but still earning her a few good laughs. Niemann settles easily into the character and has a sunny flirtatious nature about her, not overbearing or contrived when she involves herself in scandalous behavior.
Moving up the commotion scale is Gabriella (Rachel Roth) the saucy and easily angered Italian stewardess. While Roth’s accent wavers (initially sounding more eastern European blended with something Slavic or Russian before finally settling into something close to Italian) her persistence in her fierce personality is as solid as the bright red dress she wears. Roth portrays the fiery Italian girl with a passionate vehemence that fuels the flames of comedy between her and Bernard. Her facial expressions are priceless particularly when she gets riled up in a humorous situation; jealousy and rage flying all across her face in a splash of emotional splendor.
It’s Gretchen (Cassandra Dutt) that takes the cake for larger than life. From the moment she bombastically bombards her way into the apartment set, Dutt sucks up every available inch of air and then some; it’s a brilliant portrayal for this brassy German woman. There is a brazen quality to Dutt’s performance that creates a hearty robust personality in this character, making her not only thoroughly enjoyable but epic when it comes to stealing the scenes between her and Robert. Her dynamic personality, an oscillation between flirtatious and downright moody, is dynamite.
But the real show-stealer is the maid, Berthe (Kate Shoemaker). With a sassy French accent that she manages to maintain throughout the entirety of the production, Shoemaker steals everyone’s thunder with her sarcastic one-liners and frigid attitude. It’s a meaty role with a lot of comic depth and Shoemaker wastes no time in sinking her teeth in and tearing with a hilarious fury. Everything from her haphazard posture to her exasperation when the situation gets turned on its head is remarkable, making for a stunning performance. Shoemaker has a handle on deadpan humor and lingering just long enough in a scene to create sheer hilarity in awkward pauses. A brilliant performance that puts a sarcastic bow on the show as a whole.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes with one intermission
Boeing Boeing plays through February 9, 2014 at The Fells Point Corner Theatre— at The Fells Point Corner Theatre— 251 South Ann Street in historic Fells Point in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 276-7837, or purchase them online.