Theater journals and annuals state that French playwright Marc Camoletti’s farce “Boeing Boeing” has been thrilling and entertaining audiences since it first was staged in 1962. In addition to running for thousands of performances during its initial London run, the silly story of a randy Frenchman trying to keep his three air hostess girlfriends from meeting each other has played in theaters all over the world. Japan, Java, the Costa Brava, apparently no place on Earth has been deprived of this play. So ubiquitous is “Boeing Boeing” that the Guinness Book of World Records pronounces it the most produced French play in the world.
Surely, the time has come to stop the madness.
Perhaps something is lost in the translation. Proponents of this play tout its clever structure, pithy dialogue and comic heft. But even the recent (and successful) Broadway revival made no efforts to hide the fact that this farce is a fake. Ramping up the physical antics and playing up the camp, plus the clever staging of director Matthew Warchus and the comic genius of actor Mark Rylance were the things that turned this play into an airless delight.
WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second St., Albany
WHEN: Through Feb. 23
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: 462-1297, albanycivictheater.org
Albany Civic Theater’s production has many fine merits but the end result is a dish of whipped cream on sauerkraut.
It’s the swinging 1960s, and hip bachelor Bernard is living the high life — great flat in Paris, plenty of cash and three attractive air hostesses all engaged to him without knowing one another. But when his friend Robert arrives from America, Bernard’s well-tuned timetable hits some turbulence. Bad weather and new faster jets create a mess and all three women are in town at the same time. Lies, deceit and panic all collide, resulting in slamming doors and confusion for everyone.
Other than a funny script, the evening lacks another big thing — sex. There is no heat (the theater was warm enough, thanks) on that stage. No slap, no tickle, no innuendo, little to keep one’s interest. Again, perhaps it’s the translation. And how do you say in French the play needs to be trimmed by at least 15 minutes?
Actors do nice job
Director Adam M. Coons has assembled a very good cast and they all try hard to get this play to take off.
As Bernard, Jason Biszick captures a good deal of the needed panic the play requires. And when the physical “yuks” arrive in Act 2, he executes them without fail. Alexander Jones gets Robert’s wide-eyed innocence, but missed his flight when it comes to creating the character’s growing corruption.
Lori Porter’s long-suffering maid Berthe is appropriately sullen. Annie Bunce, Heather-Liz Copps and Jennifer Bullington all do well as the fiancées left circling ’round Bernard.
When Bullington arrives, as Gretchen the Luftansa air hostess, the show finally picks up pace and gets into the right flight path. Her renavigation sparked the others into action and the play finally approached the runway.
Brian Avery and Eric Shovah have designed a very handsome set and loaded it with some clever whimsy. But an attractive set and good actors cannot mask the fact that this play is a theatrical “Spruce Goose.” Yes, it flew once, but it’s now in a museum for a reason.