Boeing Boeing

July 1, 2008

Bernard has it made.  He has a good job, a flat in Paris and his bible.  His bible being the book listing all airline schedules for all airlines which provides him with the means to select “air hostesses” (which I imagine were stewardesses in the original book) whose staggered schedules ensure that never the twain...that is, three… shall meet. 

So he has three comely air hostess fiancées from different airlines and different countries.  Gloria, a New Yorker from TWA, Gabriella, an Italian from Alitalia, and Gretchen, a German with Lufthansa.

So how long do you think this Idyll will last?  Correct.  Not very long at all.  This is pure farce – doors opening and slamming and matter and anti-matter flipping in and out of them.  Gretchen in one door, Gabriella out another, Gloria in the wings.  On and on. 

Bernard has also chosen his gals with the same first initial.  It is easier for monograms.

This is a prime example of good acting, staging and directing making a ding-dong script into a fun play.  Without great timing and staging this book is a bust.  Fortunately Boeing Boeing does have these qualities in spades.  All of the actors are over the top, posing and shouting, menacing and enticing, sexy and, above all, funny. This play is 46 years old, written by French playwright Marc Camoletti, first performed in 1962.  A 1965 American movie starred Tony Curtis & Jerry Lewis.

The staging is over the top, too.  At one point Bernard literally climbs a wall and many of the characters spend much of their time on the floor, rolling, crawling, beseeching, wrestling.  One very risky bit of blocking business has Bernard tossing a spinning, full-size globe to Robert who catches it still spinning.  Robert, played by English actor Mark Rylance, who is reprising his role from the London production, is shnooky enough to carry off the diffident character played by Jerry Lewis in the American film.

The acting is good all around.  My favorite was Mary McCormack as Gretchen, the Lufthansa girl.  Her Germanic posings and pronouncements capture the stereotypical “You VILL show me your papers” which no doubt makes gentler Germans cringe. 

Long moments of body language and facial expression without dialog, and double, triple and quadruple entendres are what makes this play succeed.  If your lips are not spray-painted on your face, you will smile and very likely laugh heartily.  Hi jinks, low jinks and all the jinks in-between.  If you want a serious play, stay away.  If you want a passel of fun, come and get it at the Longacre theatre on 48th Street.