BWW Review: BOEING BOEING at Candlelight Music Theatre
In this #METOO world of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Donald Trump, one might look a bit circumspect at the staging of a 'bedroom' farce. As explained in the program notes, flight attendants in the '60's had to be single, between the ages of 21 and 27 and have a 'neatly proportioned figure' and 'pleasing appearance'. They were glamour girls and starlets of the skies.
The play is set in the 1960s, and centers on bachelor Bernard, who has a flat in Paris and three attractive 'stews' all engaged to him without knowing about each other. But Bernard's life gets bumpy when his friend Robert comes to stay, and a new, speedier Boeing 707 jet disrupts the former's careful planning. All three stewardesses have their schedules changed (Sacre bleu) and timid wallflower interloper friend Robert forgets which lies to tell to whom when they appear almost simultaneously. A recipe for catastrophe?...certainement!
Director Bob Kelly has assembled an engaging ensemble of actors and all #METOO concerns are put to rest as the chess games begin. Many directors have commented that if they had a choice, they would rather do Shakespeare than any farce. Comedic timing - along with slamming doors - and in this show, revolving portraits and national flags - is essential. There is more teamwork in a farce than a drama. One cannot be late for an entrance or it ruins the surprise. Candlelight's production was funnier - and tighter - than the one at DE Theatre Co, an equity house, a few years ago.
Berthe (Tori Healy) the maid solidifies herself in the top ranks of comedienne in the region. Her takes, her droll asides, even her very funny accent was consistently hysterical. The running gag of keeping up with the suave 'lady's man' Bernard (Ian Agnew) "It's isn't easy you know", elicited laughs time after time. Her Harry Potter spectacles and her long-suffering gait added to a consummate interpretation. At one point Gabriella is in the apartment but Gloria's picture is showing. Berthe, using her feather duster, makes the change. Funny stuff!
Agnew, making his Candlelight debut, played the sophisticate with aplomb. His urbane veneer in Act I quickly dissolved in Act II, as the three women to which he is betrothed showed up at his Parisian pied-a-terre simultaneously. He went from a womanizing bon vivant to "I'm having a nervous breakdown"! Agnew's acting chops played this magnificently and seamlessly.
Another newcomer Robert (Eric Rupp), Bernard's old and dear friend arrives from Wisconsin (why not Delaware?) and quickly becomes part of the mayhem to keep the women apart. Yes, Robert is Initially aghast at Bernard's amoral fancy footwork and seemingly impeccable scheduling. He quickly becomes a 'fellow traveler' in the charade...and eventually the hero of the play. No one knew, especially Robert himself, that he would morph into a babe magnet and supreme kisser! Just a few little words turned him into Cary Grant. His expressions and body language as Gretchen forces herself upon him were priceless.
Gabriella (Heather Ferrell) like her two female brethren, was over the top as the stew from Air Italia. Accents are difficult to assume and she carried hers flawlessly. She was the personification of her country.
Gloria (Marybeth Williamson) played the stereotypical American ditsy blond. All the women were parodies of their countries. As a result, Williamson had a more difficult task than Miss Italy or Miss Germany. Gloria however, pulls a switch on Mr Casanova at the finale. She turns out to be Bernard's alter ego in tight skirt and heels and trumps him for a Texas millionaire.
Gretchen (Sophie Jones) undeniably enhanced her reputation as one of the great triple threats of the region. Now she is a quadruple threat. Playing Guenevere in last year's CAMELOT, Aisle Say was impressed by both her gorgeous voice and acting. Even when she was not center stage, she never broke character. (I know, that is how 'acting' is defined. But that is also why there are not that many great actors...with presence. Jones went Jekyl-Hyde instantly from charming stew of Lufthansa to a hysterical parody of a Nazi SS officer. Her little bits of business added depth to the character. One wonders why Jones remains in this region. Broadway should be calling.
Costumer Tara Bowers' uniforms for the 3 flight attendants were simply perfect. They brought back old memories. Even the flight bags of the respective airlines were exact and I guess, original. Bowers may have help in that area from Amanda Gillies, who does props and set dressings.
This set abounds with doors. The design by Envision Productions accommodated the small stage perfectly. The 'secret' pocket door housing Bernard's scheduling was a great add, as was the aforementioned lazy susan portrait gallery.
In this season's productions, wigs and hair design by Lisa Miller Challenger have been excellent. So it was for the 4 women of BOEING BOEING.
Aisle Say applauds the last 3 shows at Candlelight: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, DROWSY CHAPERONE and this one. They have seriously upped their game. That said, I desperately missed my beloved mashed potatoes. Yum.
Through June 24 CandlelightTheatreDelaware.org 302.475.2313