BWW Reviews: Playhouse 1960's BOEING BOEING Bounces with Energy
When BOEING BOEING first landed on Broadway in 1965, it only ran for 23 performances. However, in 2008 the French Comedy, penned by Marc Camoletti and translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans, was revised and re-opened on Broadway. This version fared much better, garnering positive reviews. Currently, Playhouse 1960 is producing the reworked script of the classic French farce, and showing audiences why, despite its initial American run, this play is a favorite of audiences and theatre companies alike.
Last week, I attended a production of BOEING BOEING at The Texas Repertory Theatre, who is producing the original English language adaptation of the script. There, the farce has a far more European sense of humor, relying more on witty word play and less on physical comedy. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to see what the cast and crew at Playhouse 1960 are doing with the show. Their take on the French architect with three stewardess fiancés plays out more like an American sitcom, where the humor is equally physical and overtly sexual.
Moreover, the 2008 version of BOEING BOEING also appeals to the American ear by increasing the number of Americans in the show, which effectively reduces the amount of accents the cast has to deliver. While still set in a Parisian apartment in the early 1960s, the male leads are both Americans living abroad. Thus, both of the men in the show are freed from delivering performances with an accent.
Direction by Christine Weems proudly embraces and delivers the cartoony energy of classic American sitcoms. Her cast frenetically moves about the stage, jumping and leaping to show surprise and other emotions. They deliver classically over-acted facial expressions, causing us to flashback to the glory days of Lucille Ball. With the revised script and Christine Weems' charismatic direction, this production of BOEING BOEING is a buoyant and sidesplitting comedy that vastly appeals to everything Americans stereotypically want from sex-fueled comedy.
Leading this production, Brian Chambers' Bernard, the architect with three fiancés, goes from cucumber cool to frantic in no time. As the inclusion of a new, faster jet and a snow storm over the Atlantic Ocean causes his three fiancés to be in Paris at the same time, he loses his nonchalant demeanor, and Brian Chambers' zealously portrayed nerve-addled anxiety leaves the audience rolling.
As Bernard's close friend, Robert, Bryan Maynard creates a character that is astonished by Bernard's dangerous game. Looking for an apartment of his own, he agrees to temporarily live with Bernard and watch the philanderer in action. Of course, as the hilarity ensues, he becomes ensnarled in the action and even develops feelings for one of the women as well. Bryan Maynard creates a character that works well under pressure while hilariously fissuring without completely cracking.
As caricatures of the gorgeous and glamorous exotic 1960s woman, the sexy stewardesses of BOEING BOEING provide the show's excitement. Gloria, Bernard's TWA fiancé from Georgia, is played with Southern charm and a full-bodied Southern drawl by Helen Rios. As the American, she is gently domineering and fully knows what she wants. Helen Rios makes Gloria delightfully stubborn and comically hardheaded as well. Amanda Baird brings the Italian Gabriella to life. She is wonderfully hot-tempered. She is drawn to anything and everything that appeals to her vanity. Megan Nix plays Gretchen, the German Lufthansa stewardess, with appealing awkwardness. Unsure of her body and its own charms, her Gretchen is torn between the extremes of stereotypical German stoicism and lusty passion.
As the grumbling Gaelic housekeeper Berthe, Rachel Wesley is wonderfully dry and acerbic. The Scottish Gaelic accent is a hard one to master, and Rachel Wesley shies away from it, delivering an accent that is vaguely Transatlantic-like.
Set Design by Bryan Maynard utilizes white walls with black trim to create a very 1960s Mod atmosphere for the production. LeeAnne Denny's Costume Design recreates the Mod look of the early 60s in the best way her budget allows, using pieces that give the idea of Mod even if they are not exact replicas of pieces of the era.
For the time being, Houston is the town of the two simultaneous productions of BOEING BOEING. Playhouse 1960's production is highly animated and physical, giving audiences a zany farce that inexhaustibly bounces for the entire production. Having seen both, I find that each is charming and entertaining. Most importantly, the productions are different enough to ensure that audiences who venture out to both will enjoy them.
Running Time: Approximately 1 hour and 55 minutes with one intermission.
BOEING BOEING, produced by Playhouse 1960, runs at Playhouse 1960, 6814 Grant Road, Houston, 77066 now through April 5, 2014. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. For more information and tickets, please visit http://www.ph1960.com or call (281) 587-8243.
Photos by Christine Weems. Courtesy of Playhouse 1960.