For you followers of farce it may be time to head over to Texas Repertory Theatre to take in the latest offering, the Marc Camoletti / Beverly Cross comedy, BOEING BOEING.If the recent audience of which I was a part was any indication, you may be in for plenty of laughs. Now I should offer one caution at the outset. I do not object to farce. As a student of theater at the University of Texas many years ago, I recall my delight on first reading Moliere’s The Miser. At one time I was also a member in good standing of The Sons of the Desert, the international comedy fraternity honoring the collected works of Laurel & Hardy. Having said that, I do have some difficulty when comedy plots such as this one seem so far-fetched that I cannot believe what I am seeing. That may just be a personal shortcoming, as part of enjoying farce requires surrendering to the nonsense. With able direction from Steven Fenley, rest assured there is plenty of nonsense in BOEING BOEING.
For those unfamiliar with the play’s plot (or that of the film starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis), the action takes place in the modest Paris flat (scenic design, Trey Otis) of a playboy named Bernard (Tom Long). Bernard has established intimate relationships with three different airline stewardesses, each of whom thinks she is his fiancée. As each of these gals visits the apartment, it falls to Bernard’s feisty and grumbling housekeeper, Bertha (Marcy Bannor), to try and juggle the meal menus and framed photographs on display to fit the current overnight guest. Meanwhile, it is Bernard’s task to maintain a careful timetable detailing the travel schedules for each flight attendant in order to avoid any embarrassing conflicts. Therein lies the lunacy that propels this show’s hilarity. In the process we meet TWA stewardess, Janet, (Christina Stroup), Air France stewardess, Jacqueline (Robin Van Zant), and Lufthansa stewardess, Judith (Lauren Dolk). Adding to the comic confusion is the unexpected arrival of Bernard’s old friend, Robert (David Walker). Robert is justifiably mystified by Bernard’s uncanny skill for carefully scheduling the visits of his assorted fiancées so that they never run into one another, —or do they?
The schemes of this scoundrel begin to unravel as people come and go through the seven slamming doors in this apartment, and the timing of these unmanageable entrances and exits is quite a test of Bernard’s ability to maintain the charade. When we first meet Janet she is relaxing in black lace loungewear while devouring extra helpings of Bertha’s pancakes. Bernard has to hurry her off to her flight lest she encounter the expected arrival of Jacqueline, fiancée #2. She bounces in with devilish glee sporting black patent leather platform boots. It isn’t long before fiancée #3, the German Judith, arrives wearing a crisp, gold colored airline suit that is almost as severe as the militaristic atmosphere that surrounds her. When the men excite her, she affects a laser-like gaze and a set of quasi-orgasmic and undulating gyrations. The robotic angularity of her body language brings many a laugh from the audience, although Miss Dolk’s wild-eyed intensity sometimes resulted in lines of dialogue being lost as she spoke too rapidly to be understood. It was, nevertheless, a uniquely nutty characterization for this uniquely nutty play.
If this all sounds a bit predictable, well yes, it is. But each of our costars brings a special brand of zaniness that helps sustain this comic romp until it comes in for a safe landing with some final relationships that may surprise you.
\BOEING BOEING continues thru April 13th at Texas Repertory Theatre in the Northwoods Plaza, 14243 Stuebner Airline Rd., Houston, Texas. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 3 pm. For tickets ($35) and information on Senior and Student discounts, call 281-583-7573 or visit the website at www.TexasRepTheatre.org.