BWW Review: Come Fly with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre at Charming BOEING BOEING
With a grand Alexander Calder like mobile hanging over the Cabot Stage when the audience enters the theater, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) opens their 2015-2016 season with the modern French farce Boeing, Boeing. Marc Camoletti's 1960 play won a 2008 Tony Award for Best Revival in New York and throughly delighted the Cabot Theatre audiences at the Broadway Theatre Center on opening weekend.
To complement the stunning art mobile, Brandon Kirkham's sophisticated set design of a mid-20th century Paris apartment together with Eleanor Cotey's colorful retro costumes immediately set the perfect tone for this high flying farce that revolves around a bachelor, his visiting friend and a trio of airline hostesses--and includes the famous Boeing 707 airplane, the first jet liner to be commercially successful that ushered in what is now named "the jet age."
This faster, more powerful jet gives the main character Bernard less time to spend with his three fiances, Gloria, Gabriella and Gretchen on their layovers in Paris while they travel the world. When Benard's boyhood friend Robert comes to visit searching for a wife in Paris, he's immediately taken in by Bernard's philsophy to entertain three fiance's without a chance of marrying merely one. The timetables to the airline's transcontintental flights become Bernard's romantic bible, and with the help of his faithful 'domestic servant' Berthe, he keeps these three women happy with their constant revolving travel arrangements, cancellations and delays inherent in air flights even before the days of waiting to move through airline security, the TSA.
Leave this farciful trip to Director Michael Cotey where he quickens the pace to the production while Ryan Schabach shines during every scene in the role of Bernard's clueless friend Robert, a naive American in Paris. Schlbach's comic timetable soars in the comedy along with Marcella Kearns in her indefatigable role as Berthe. Her nuanced character, complete with great gestural expressiveness, reigns on the stage alongside the three actors, Anne Walaszek, the American Gloria for Trans World Airlines, Amber Smith, Italian Gabriella for Air Italia, and then Samantha Sostarich, German Gretchen for Lufthansa, who create the tailwinds, or Bernard's fiances. The handsome Bernard, Brain Gill, gradually becomes undone when the Boeing Jets upset his own personal timetable for his visiting air hostesses.
If the play's contrivances at first appear male oriented, the four women in this production have thier last words to commit these two coniving males trying to keep the three women apart. Schabach and Gill keep the laughs coming in perpetual motion, while Walaszek almost broke into laughter in a scene with Schabach. All these women give the hostesses intelligence and smarts with an ethnic spin, and Sosatrich presents feminine German power.
Along with the airport fun, poignant stage moments happen between Schalbach and Kearns, the overworked maid, clearly stressed by these revolving fiances, almost like the luggage carousel at an airport. Berthe's clearly moved by the unattached American bachelor. To complement that unlikely pair, Schalbach and Sostarich, the intense German, begin another journey with a mistaken kiss, while Walaszek plays the giddy New Yorker with fearless abandon, a few tricks of her own in her TWA bag.
The evening clearly illustrates what "international romantic bliss" might be, alhtough the ending safely lands these three romances in celebration with bottles of bubbly champange. And while there might have been a preference for the German to feast on Wienershintzel or Beef Rouladen instead of Sauerkruat or the American cusine stretching to some of New York's famous dishes, BIg Apple Apple Pie instead of pancakes, (because ethnic food and airline travel bags factor in seamlessly to this production), the cultural flavor blends with funny precision. Take this modern flight of farce, perhaps as Frank Sintra would sing "a starry-eyed and rarefied' comic production so chamingly cavorted at MCT for a summer evening's vacation everyone will fancy.
MIlwaukee Chamber Theatre presents Boeing, Boeing at the Cabot Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center in the Historic Third Ward through August 30. For information, special programming or tickets, please call 414.291.1000 or milwaukeechambertheatre.com