Tuesday, January 29, 2013

BOEING BOEING — a Full Flight of Funny

Opening weekend at Delaware Theatre Company saw a bevy of Who’s Whos hoot, holler and howl at the third production of its 2012-2013 season, Marc Camoletti’s French farce, Boeing Boeing.  It also welcomed back to the local stage three graduates of the University of Delaware’s Professional Theatre Training Program (now UD’s REP Theatre). (Saw pal Deenie Howatt of UD get a huge hug from actor Jeffrey C. Hawkins in the lobby post-performance.) 

The 2008 Tony Award-winning script, originally translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans and directed here by Steve Tague, takes us on board the comedic trip of American businessman Bernard (Jason O’Connell) as he attempts to juggle his trio of international fiancées – all flight attendants – as well as a surprise visit from his old college pal, Robert (Jeffrey C. Hawkins).

Bernard has successfully (thus far) kept all three on a tight schedule of romance, all managed through the master flight timetables he keeps on hand.  He describes his setup to Robert as “…so mathematic, it’s almost poetic.” But suddenly, reality – or more precisely, modern technology – takes control in the form of faster jet engines and colliding schedules.  Then the real fun starts: early arrivals, sneaky departures, and plenty of door slamming, pratfalls, and the ubiquitous calming cocktail.   

The women in Bernard’s life – feisty Texan Gloria (Sara M. Bruner), lusty Italian Gabriella (Gisela Chipe) and uber-passionate German Gretchen (Heidi-Marie Ferren) – are at the heart of the frenzied, titillating tale.  Each was a well-played over-the-top parody, but Gretchen was downright hilarious.  However, it was the one who must keep them all straight – Bernard’s long-suffering maid, Berthe (Sarah Doherty) – who I thought delivered the most genuine laugh-out-loud moments.  Many of Doherty’s scenes were priceless even without words: her body language and subtle reactions delivered in true comedic timing.

My other favorite was Hawkins as Bernard’s nerdy, excitable pal, Robert.  While Bernard cavorts with his trio, Robert and Berthe struggle to maintain order, whatever that might be.  I loved the banter of Berthe’s and Robert’s scenes together, and at one point found myself even rooting for them to hook up and leave this dysfunctional band to themselves!  There’s plenty of clever quips, including an explanation from Gloria on what truly makes American great, which sent a roar through the audience.

I had a little problem with the actors’ blocking from my seats (at a few points, a character would completely obstruct our view of others) but I came away extremely amused and pleasantly surprised (thought there would be much more ‘dated sexism’ in the content). In the end, after the mania ensues and the smoke clears, everything is wrapped up in a classic neat little package. No spoiler alert here, though; as Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Buy the ticket; take the ride.”

The production runs through February 10. See www.delawaretheatre.org.

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