BWW Reviews: The Texas Repertory Theatre's BOEING BOEING is Light-Hearted Fun
When it comes to farce, the French are the masters of the genre. Marc Camoletti's 1960 play BOEING BOEING was translated into English by Beverly Cross. The comedic piece found success in London, running for seven years in its original production, but it failed to capture American audiences. In its initial 1965 Broadway run, it closed after 23 performances. However, in 1991, it was named in the Guinness Book of Records as the most performed French play throughout the world, and The Texas Repertory Theatre's sprightly production certainly indicates why it is so endearing.
Set in a Paris apartment in 1962, the light-hearted play introduces audiences to Bernard, a Parisian architect and lothario. He proudly boasts that he has three fiancés, and each one is a stewardess for a different airline. He is able to keep them all a secret from each other because he has mastered "juggling timetables" and has "a reliable maid, who never forgets to change the photographs." Close to the beginning of the show, an old school chum of Bernard's named Richard appears in Paris. Since he is out of work, Bernard offers for him to share his apartment until he gets back on his feet. He also invites Richard to experience firsthand how easily he pulls off having three fiancés. Things go awry when the introduction of a new model of Boeing plane and a severe storm over the Atlantic change the timetables, causing all three women to be grounded in Paris at the same time.
Director Steven Fenley has cast this amusing production well, and has coached every member of the cast to create likable and humorous characters. Using a healthy mix of physical comedy, the script's witty one-liners, and well-timed entrances and exits, Steven Fenley delivers a comedy that keeps the audience chuckling from the beginning to the end. In doing this, he keeps the pace of the show high for most of the performance; however, it does lag after Janet's first exit and before Jacqueline enters. Unfortunately, where his show suffers is in the use of accents. I am happy to report that accents were used and that they were mostly consistent; however, they are also problematic in performance. David Walker's Robert occasionally drops out of his French provincial accent. Conversely, Tom Long's Bernard, Robin Van Zant's Jacqueline, and Lauren Dolk's Judith sometimes use accents so thick that their lines are completely lost.
Leading the production, Tom Long's Bernard finds himself in quite the laughable situation as he has to juggle three women at the same time. His growing frantic stress makes the show enjoyable. Opposite him, David Walker's Robert is somewhat like a mouthpiece for the audience. He gets to ask the questions that we have, but he also becomes inextricably mixed up in the shenanigans as well, adding his own mounting frustrations and budding romance to the comedy.
While the men may lead the show, the evening belongs to the women. The reliable and hard-working housemaid is played by Marcy Bannor, who creates a sardonic and wholly exasperated character with her Bertha. She plays nice with the three fiancés, but she's also not afraid to express her feelings on the situation. Christina Stroup's Janet is a delightful caricature of American greed and excess, noting that Bernard will do until she finds a millionaire to marry. Also, many lines center around how much and how frequently she eats. She gets to be brash and obnoxious, and Christina Stroup truly works these aspects of the character to her advantage. Robin Van Zant's Jacqueline is a portrait of the stereotypical fastidious French woman. She knows what she wants, and she expects every romantic action to surpass her expectations. Lauren Dolk's Judith, a zany German girl, is hysterical because of how awkward she is. At times she is unapproachably straight-laced; yet, any time she perceives something as exciting or stimulating, she instantly flips. Lauren Dolk uses her dance training to create an eccentric woman who seems to have little control over her bodily reflexes, as she makes grand gestures and weird movements whenever her amorous side is piqued.
In the lobby of the theatre, Trey Otis' model of the Set Design is on display. Seeing this before the show, I was excited to see what I expected to be a very beautiful set. Unfortunately, the color palette used on the set is too much. The design elements are all nice; however, the aqua walls make the set look gaudy and tacky. I assume the loud colors were picked to represent the general mirth and joy of 1962. Personally, I feel that a more toned down color palette would have better suited the show and would have served to highlight Bernard's wealth and taste, making it easier for the audience to understand how easily he woos these women.
Tiffani Fuller's Costume Design is as good of a representation of 1962's fashions as her budget would allow. The yellow suit turned stewardess outfit for Lauren Dolk's Judith seems the most appropriate of the three central female characters. Also, her choice to use thin ties on the men is period appropriate. While other elements in the collected ensembles seemed a little misguided, they do not distract from the production.
The first time I had heard of BOEING BOEING was when it was revived on Broadway in 2008, and I have been curious about the show ever since. Texas Repertory Theatre is currently producing the original English translation of the script, giving Houston audiences a chance to see the show as it was intended to be seen in the early 1960s. It's not quite a laugh a minute, but it is a very fun and altogether charming piece that serves to brighten your night.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
BOEING BOEING, produced by The Texas Repertory Theatre, plays at The Texas Repertory Theatre, 14243 Stuebner Airline Road, Houston, 77069 now through April 13, 2014. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. For tickets and more information please visit http://www.texreptheatre.org or call (281) 583-7573.
Production Photos by Larry Lipton. Courtesy of The Texas Repertory Theatre.
Marcy Bannor as Bertha & David Walker as Robert.
David Walker as Robert & Robin Van Zant as Jacqueline.
L to R: Marcy Bannor as Bertha & Lauren Dolk as Judith.
L to R: Marcy Bannor as Bertha & Lauren Dolk as Judith.
Lauren Dolk as Judith & David Walker as Robert.
David Walker as Robert & Lauren Dolk as Judith.