“Boeing-Boeing” explores the perils of overbooking at The Players Centre for Performing Arts.
Marc Camoletti’s “Boeing-Boeing” is now boarding at The Players Centre — a “classic farce” from 1965. Which is another way of saying the play’s plot violates probability, logic, and common sense. But put your tray in the upright position, fasten your seatbelt, and try to relax, ladies and gentlemen. We should be clearing this unpleasant plot summary shortly.
Once upon a time in the swinging ’60s, Bernard (Jared Weldon), a playboy bachelor from America, enjoys the good life in a swanky Parisian apartment. (He’s an architect. Based on the rent, he must’ve been in high demand. When he actually designed buildings is beyond me.) Bernard spends most of his time indulging in simultaneous affairs with three airline stewardesses of various nationalities — an arrangement resembling an R-rated version of the “It’s a Small World After All” at Walt Disney World. Our well-organized, oversexed, expatriate rotates photos, flags and meal plans—an interval relationship system based on a big book of the airlines’ flight schedules, which is always at his side. Bernard handles the big picture. His long-suffering French maid, Berthe (Helen Holliday), takes care of the granular details. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, judging by the multiple doors of Jeffrey Weber’s clever set, it’s a farce. The safe assumption is everything.
Weldon is exceedingly funny as Bernard, the play’s deadpan, serial polygamist/protagonist. (Weldon boarded this theatrical flight at the last minute after an injury sidelined the original actor. After minimal rehearsals, he bravely performs with only occasional glances at the script.) Weldon’s character treats his ridiculous lifestyle as the most reasonable thing in the world—and that’s why it’s funny. Holliday’s Berthe knows exactly how ridiculous it is. She does a slow burn throughout the play and eventually boils over. Ross Boehringer plays Bernard’s straight-laced midwestern pal who stops by for a surprise visit. When the inevitable fallout ensues, he’s as nervous as a terrier in a thunderstorm. Jennifer Eddy portrays Gretchen — the lusty German stewardess who quotes Wagner’s “Nibelungen” and seems to have a problem with anger management. Melissa Ingrisano is a hoot as Gloria, the American stewardess with a harsh, gum-popping New York accent, and a mercenary attitude to match. (Camoletti’s stereotype, folks. He seems to think American women are in it for the money.) The sweetest, sanest stewardess is Gabriella (Carrie McQueen). She’s the Italian, capiche? Despite all the turbulence, she gets Bernard to straighten up and fly right.
Although “Boeing-Boeing” is no feminist anthem, its three stewardesses are fiercely individualized. You’d never mistake one for another. Aside from the script, Jared Walker’s vivid, color-coded costumes make that impossible. Lufthansa is yellow; TWA is red; Alitalia is blue. How simple is that?
Bob and Kyle Turoff are the dual directors on this flight of fancy. This father-daughter team is fluent in farce—which runs on the same logic as murder/suspense dramas. Instead of worrying that someone will die or get stabbed, you’re vicariously terrified of extreme embarrassment. On stage, it’s a similar experience: an extended panic attack, punctuated by screams on the one hand, and laughter on the other. Either way, the roller coaster ride depends on realism. No reality: no laughs or screams. The Turoffs deliver.
No easy task.
Camoletti’s script is nearly a two-and-a-half-hour ride. I guess people had more time on their hands in the 1960s. You can’t blame the directors for that.
Long-winded or not, Camoletti was a great comic playwright. Like all classic farces, his “Boeing-Boeing” affirms monogamous morality by giving you a vicarious taste of immorality, and then restoring the status quo after you experience a twinge of indigestion. One important moral lesson shines through:
Overbooking will get you in trouble, whether in the air or in relationships.