Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
Timing is Everything: “Boeing-Boeing” Bounces into La Mirada
Classic French farce depends on three elements: timing, titillation, and stereotype. The comedy is all about slamming doors, larger-than-life characterizations, and a hint of sexuality which provides the urgency in a ridiculous situation. Take, as example, “Boeing-Boeing,” now receiving a riotously silly run as part of the McCoy Rigby Entertainment Series at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.
“Boeing-Boeing” actually is a French farce, as in written originally in French. Beverley Cross and Francis Evans translated it from Marc Camoletti’s original. As such it has that slightly snooty attitude toward those who are not French which adds to the comedy.
The time is the early 1960s. Robert has come to visit his good friend Bernard at his Paris apartment. There, he discovers Bernard’s elaborately planned, deeply lascivious life. The man is “engaged” to three women, all foreign stewardesses. He lives by the airline time-tables, swapping women every few days as one leaves and another arrives for holdovers in this capital city. Facilitating this, and grumbling with impressive wisdom all the while, is Bernard’s long-suffering maid/cook Berthe.
Then, thanks to a powerful storm, the schedules of Bernard’s various fiances collide. Robert must help his friend continue the ruse. The results are classic, and very funny.
Carter Roy makes Bernard articulate and precise, and very pleased with himself. As the comparative country boy, Marc Valera’s innocent Robert creates some of the best physical comedy – outrageous and subtle by turns. Melanie Lora makes a practical, commanding and straightforwardly sexy (and amazingly slithery) American as the stewardess from TWA. Kalie Quinones evokes passion and intensity – that “we fight then we make love” quotient – of the stereotypical Italian as the stewardess from Alitalia. Amy Rutberg goes completely over the top with a German as worthy of a Mel Brooks satire as of a job as stewardess from Lufthansa.
Yet none of these folks, funny though they are, hold a candle to the performance of Michelle Azar, completely nonstereotypical as the exhausted, and occasionally disgusted maid. She does more, often by underplaying, to emphasize the comedy of the piece than any other character.
Director Jeff Maynard has the timing of this thing down cold. He pushes for the stereotypes in just the right way to keep them comic rather than uncomfortable, and makes the men just polar opposite enough to create a comedic tension. It all works.
Kevin Clowes has created a high class, bright and fancy apartment with lots of slammable doors. Helen Butler has created uniforms for our flying women more out of a man’s fantasy than the reality of flight wear, but they match the heightened silliness of the play and the performers in just the right way.
Once it gets going – and there is quite a bit of exposition to get through before the silliness really sings – “Boeing-Boeing” is simply funny, even when it is sexist. There are moments, as in any good, silly farce, when you may be wiping tears of laughter. Listen closely to hear just what the French, in their comedies, really think of the rest of the world. That, in itself, can be a great source of amusement.
But mostly, “Boeing-Boeing” is a nice, uncomplicated, well crafted farce. The elements are all there. They work just as they should. The audience goes home chuckling. Done, and done.
What: “Boeing-Boeing” When: Through February 10, 7:30 Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays Where: La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd. in La Mirada How Much: $20 – $70 Info: (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or http://www.lamiradatheatre.com