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BWW Review: BOEING BOEING Was A Popular Hit For St. Jude's Players

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Wednesday 17th August 2016

Boeing Boeing is the English translation of a French farce by Marc Camoletti, presented by St. Jude's Players. It is set in a Paris apartment in the early 1960s, where Bernard lives with his airline hostess fiancée. To be more truthful, he lives there in a sexual time share arrangement with each of his three airline hostess fiancées, who are totally unaware of the existence of the others. His bible is a book which contains the flight times of all of the airlines, and the three women he has carefully selected are from different airlines on very different routes, preventing any chance of them meeting in the course of their work. Gloria flies to the USA, Gabriella is on the Italian routes, and Gretchen is with the German airline. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Reluctantly aiding and abetting him in his deceptions is his housekeeper, Bertha, a constantly grumpy individual who loves nothing more than complaining and bemoaning her lot. Bernard's old friend from the country, Robert, arrives at the apartment, planning to move to the city and expecting to renew their acquaintance and leave, but Bernard insists that he stay. Unexpectedly, things rapidly become unravelled through a combination of unforeseen factors, particularly the introduction of much faster aircraft on all three airlines, and a spate of extremely bad weather. His bible is suddenly worthless, and all three women are homing in on the apartment that they think is their exclusive home with Bernard. Keeping three women apart in one apartment is the basis of many a farce.

Veteran director, Les Zetlein, was always on a winner with this comedy, which had long runs when it was first translated. Just bas the French version would have been in the native tongue to audiences there, with only the three hostesses having accents, so Zetlein presents the English version with only those three having accents. This works far better than having French accents for Bernard, Robert, and Bertha as well as the other three.

John Koch brings lots of experience to the role of Bernard and knows how to play a farcical role, with a carefully arranged transition from smug hypocrite, to panic stricken mess, and ending up in shock over the way everything ends up with the decisions made by the three women.

Tim Taylor is his old friend Robert, at first bemused by Bernard's lifestyle, becoming panic stricken as he finds himself being reluctantly dragged into the web of intrigue as the complications pile up, one on another. Taylor has something like Bernard's journey, beginning with some degree of admiration, then becoming a smug bystander as things start to go amiss, before being caught up in the mess and panicking. Robert, too, is very surprised at the eventual outcome, giving Taylor as much to work with as Koch.

As these two are seldom offstage, it is essential that the two leads are strong and understand farce, and Koch and Taylor make it look like a walk in the park, not missing a single laugh and timing every opening and closing of the four doors leading off of the room, to perfection, as they try to keep the women apart.

Charlotte Batty plays Gloria, the feminist American from California working for TWA. Batty gives us a brash, loud, American who expects to get her own way in all things. Batty has the Californian accent down pat, and creates a character that is quite believable as she expects everybody to jump to her every command, a send up of the "ugly American" of the 60s.

Gabriella, his passionate Latin lover who flies with Alitalia, is played by Carla Hardie, dressing, moving and carrying herself with the sort of style for which Italians are famed. Hardie brings an air of refinement to the role, but not without the sexiness that is generally attributed to Italian women, twisting the men around her little finger.

Jessica McGaffin completes the trio as Gretchen, the no nonsense German with a vice-like handshake, who is working for Lufthansa. McGaffin gives Gretchen a commanding personality, commanding both men and Bertha, although the latter is rather reluctant to jump to Gretchen's orders. McGaffin's is a very playful interpretation of the highly patriotic German girl.

Lindy LeCornu plays Bertha, steals most of the scenes, and almost the whole show. If it was not for the fact that the entire cast were terrific, and at the top of their game, she would have walked off with the whole thing. Her sense of comic timing, as we have seen so often in the past, is impeccable, and her characterisations never fail. Zetlein knew what he was doing when he gave her this role.

Sadly, the season was almost over by the time that I was able to review it, so you won't be able to catch it now, but keep an eye open for future productions.


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