Oh, what fine comic talent and an attuned director can do to bring pleasure. Under the sure hands of NextStop’s Evan Hoffmann and a talented six-member ensemble, there is enjoyable life to an old war-horse of a farce from the mid-1960s – Boeing Boeing.
Working with paper-thin characters created by French playwright Marc Camoletti then translated into English by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans, Hoffmann and cast accomplished way more than opening and closing doors with impeccable timing or going over the top with pratfalls and big-eyed gestures. Together, the cast artfully coaxed remarkably appealing, unexpected substance and nuance for a script build around an at-first, unmitigated misogynist. May I add, NextStop’s Boeing Boeing thankfully is no satiric sendups of one of those antiseptic Doris Day and Rock Hudson movies such as Pillow Talk from the same mid-1960’s period.
OK, so what is Boeing Boeing about? It’s set in the 1960’s. A young bachelor and architect named Bernard (a delightful Andrew Baugham as an at-first confident, charming, man without many scruples) is quite happy. And, why shouldn’t he be. Bernard has an apartment in Paris and has three fiancées, none of whom know about the others. Each of Bernard’s fiancées is an airline stewardess in a time when world travel by airline was for high rollers.
Each of the three women flies with a different airline. They each have different flight schedules with stopovers in Paris lasting only a day or two.
There is a food-challenged American working with TWA named Gloria (a breezy Suzy Alden who finds her woman-centered powers and get-up-and-go as the play progresses.) There is the Italian Gabriella (Jenny Girardi with a sincere sweetness to her almost innocent portrayal of a passionate woman with fluttering hands who lengthens her final vowels when she speaks so that I happily thought of Rita Moreno saying the name Bernardo in West Side Story). And there is Gretchen, a German who flies with Lufthansa. (Emily Levey who owns the Gretchen character with not only a no-nonsense approach, but adds pop and zing to her words and gestures, as well as real shadings to the feelings she displays).
Ah, but this is a farce and Bernard’s life begins to turn upside down. First, Bernard’s housekeeper Berthe cops an attitude. Karen Novack is a delightful hoot as Berthe. Novack is just chock-full of verbal aggression, and almost silent facial put-downs that speak volumes; all with confident “don’t mess with me air.”
Then an American friend from his past named Robert unexpectedly arrives for a visit. Robert, from a small town in Wisconsin, is a bit unworldly. As Robert, Helen Hayes Award recipient Alan Naylor, has a clearly accomplished arc to his character. Naylor starts off as an androgynous Pee Wee Herman-like asexual being. Then with an unexpected kiss, Roberts turns into one of those wing-man types trying to help out his best friend Bernard by becoming a sexual being.
Things turn into a fervor as Boeing has built a jet that flies faster; much faster. The result fuels Boeing Boeing’s second act. Flight schedules change; and all three of Bernard’s finances are in town at the same time. Everything becomes a whoosh of frenetic energy, panic, bumps, and bruises. And chaos and hilarity ensues.
What happens? Will the three woman discover each other? Will cad Bernard get some well-earned comeuppance? Well, since Boeing Boeing is a farce through and through, I am not going to ruin it for you by telling you. Suffice to say, all is a big, fast romp with smiles all around because kooky characters are winningly portrayed by actors up for a lark.
Costume Designer Kristina Martin has hit a homer with her brightly colorful pencil outfits for Gloria (fire engine red), Gabriella (rich purple) and Gretchen (dazzling yellow). Properties Coordinators Donna Reinhold and Jessica Dubish hit their marks locating old-time airline travel bags full of unanticipated paraphernalia..
Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden’s set is simple and effective. It provides the cast with room to run and frolic about and around a long couch with about 20 colorful pillows. There are a number of doors to open and close, other places for entrances and exit and one hidden-spot that adds a sense of time to the proceedings. The walls are painted a seafoam green I recall from the early 1960s before the likes of Peter Max and psychedelic colors became the norm.
Boeing Boeing is endearing in its own way. It is meant to bring laughter and it does because a merry band of able actors are clearly up to the task.
With such a plentitude of serious, intense, and treacherous things going on in the world at this moment, NextStop’s Boeing Boeing is great respite. Let a show meant to be innocent fun take you away. And if you do you will be treated to a bucketful of laughs delivered by a dream cast. Happy landing!
Running Time: Two hours, including an intermission.