BWW Review: Fly the Funny Skies at Newport Playhouse's BOEING BOEING
When the set for a play has more doors than anything else, you may be in store for a classic door-slamming farce, complete with perfectly timed entrances and exits, mistaken identities, confusion, and madcap antics. Newport Playhouse provides just that with their current production, the light and breezy Boeing Boeing.
This comedy, written by Marc Camoletti, revolves around Bernard, a businessman living in a luxurious flat in Paris in the 1960s. A classic lothario, Bernard is juggling three different girlfriends, all of whom believe they are engaged to be married. He pulls this off primarily thanks to the fact that all three are flight attendants (air hostesses, in the parlance of the time). Using flight schedules and travel itineraries, which he keeps track of meticulously, Bernard is able to time things just right, so that the three women are never in Paris at the same time, always missing each other as one flies out of town as the other one flies in.
Aiding him in these efforts is Bernard's maid, Berthe, who handles the cooking and housekeeping, including keeping each fiancé in the dark about the other two by switching meal menus and bedroom photos. The two of them seem to have it all perfectly worked out but things seem destined to go wildly awry, and of course they do. On the day that Bernard's old friend Robert unexpectedly shows up, other surprises quickly follow, leading all three women to end up back in Bernard's flat at the same time. Bernard, Berthe, and Robert furiously work to keep them separated and unaware of each other, with often hilarious results.
Camoletti's script, while being rather dated and dusty, doesn't offer the audience much time to pause and think about the aspects that don't work or make no sense. This is a play that asks its audience for a lot of suspension of disbelief, as many farces do, and hopes that the audience will be willing to turn their brains off for a while and just go along for the fun, entertaining ride.
Director Daniel Lee White keeps that fun and entertainment value ratcheted up, going for quick pace and big, broad comedy. That pace is a bit too fast at times, making certain moments easy to miss or difficult to understand, but it does allow for jokes that don't land to be forgotten quickly as the next one comes up fast. The play is performed without an intermission and White builds the momentum and energy steadily over the run time, heading towards the inevitable and well-staged climactic craziness.
White's cast is clearly having fun with that craziness that they're asked to create onstage. As Bernard, Austin Venditelli is a simmering cauldron of anxiety just waiting to boil over, which of course he does in a big, very funny way. As Robert, James R. Walsh is more of the straight-man, caught up in all the insanity around him, with some simple reactions that are hilarious and other moments of physical comedy that are just as funny.
It's really the women of the cast who stand out and shine in this production, though. Leslie Zeile is excellent as the most put-upon and worn-out maid ever, Berthe. Her very real exasperation is understandable and relatable. Kathleen Kent brings a larger than life personality and vivaciousness to Gloria, the American flight attendant. Her German counterpart, Gretchen, is played by Genevra Stewart, whose character seems equally likely to kiss you or break you in half, equal parts sweetness and fury. Standing out the most, in a good way, is Annette LaBonte as Gabriella, the Italian air hostess. Her passion and intensity are very real and believable and her performance is the most emotional and relatable of the ensemble.
With everything going on in our world right now, we could all use a little escape now and then, and Boeing Boeing will fly you away from reality to a destination of laugh-out-loud comedy for a brief but entertaining stay.
Boeing Boeing runs through November 17 at Newport Playhouse and Cabaret Restaurant, at 102 Connell Highway in Newport. Showtimes are 11am on Tuesday (11/22), Wednesday (11/30) and Thursday (11/24), 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11am on Sundays. Admission for the dinner & show is $52.95, which includes a homemade buffet and post-show cabaret. Show-only admission is $25. For more information and tickets, visit the Playhouse's website at newportplayhouse.com, call the box office at 401-848-7529, or visit the box office Monday through Thursday 10am-6pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-8pm, or Sunday 10am-5pm.