by Heather Parish
Boeing-Boeing at College of the Sequoias Theater is a robust farce that will lift your spirits. The classic 1960s French comedy by Marc Camoletti, which recently enjoyed successful Broadway and London revivals, presents fun characters, terrific design, and a lot of laughs for audiences in Visalia. The whole evening is one big belly laugh delivering just what you want from a farce- big characters, physical gags, and sophisticated sexual wit.
The set up: It is 1961 and American-in-Paris Bernard (David Payne) is proud of keeping three fiancées at the same time. They’re all airline stewardesses with busy, diverse schedules, and he’s devised a system to keep track of their comings and goings, making sure they never meet. His housekeeper Berthe (Karen Kirkpatrick) helps with his schedule, changing bedside photographs and preparing different cuisine depending on who’s due when. There’s the chipper American Gloria (Karly Butler-Shirk), the passionate Italian Gabriela (Sarah Gallegos) and the robust Gretchen from Germany (Sarah Peltzer).
Everything is running smoothly until Robert arrives. He’s a nerdy bumpkin school-friend from Wisconsin, played with great timing and delicious naiveté by Adam Rodriguez, who sure would like a girl of his own. Bernard gives him the rundown of how he balances three girlfriends. When poor Robert tries to remember everything, the real fun begins. There are the typical French farce doors that open and shut with characters popping in and out. There’s plenty of hilarious physical action, including falls, spills and visual gags. It’s the swinging ’60s, and the girls in their bright, fitted airline uniforms create a flurry of color with their comings and goings. Every movement is choreographed within an inch of its life, and each character is a delightful exaggeration.
The actors provide a lot of contrast. Payne’s Bernard is the most low-key. He’s at the center of the cyclone, and as his life unravels–with surprising results–he becomes progressively manic. Rodriguez is a sympathetic nervous wreck from the get-go when he learns of Bernard’s tricky womanizing. It’s an admirable physical performance for Rodriguez, although sometimes slightly overdone. Kirkpatrick as Bernard’s disillusioned, deadpan housekeeper provides a sharp contrast to the other women and pulls off some hilarious moments. Gallegos has the Italian character down so sweetly without overdoing the fiery, Italian stereotype, and Butler-Shirk’s beautiful Gloria plays out a sharply turned personality of her own. But the evening belongs to Peltzer as the iron maiden whose German character is so mock-Teutonic to the core, and we’re completely engaged. (My favorite moment is when Robert, so overpowered by the German girl, is on his knees promising to “answer all your questions!” and show her his “papers”, as though he’s in a WWII interrogation room).
The beautifully sleek set from Chris Mangels and the perfectly designed women’s hostess uniforms from director/costumer James McDonnell tied the piece together wonderfully.
Interestingly, my only quibbles tend to come with the adaptation/translation of the piece from French to English, in this case English-for-American-audiences. Some of the character choices dictated by the script are very much a French or English-person’s idea of what Americans are like rather than what they are actually like, thus missing some humor for American audiences. (Example: a Midwesterner like Robert would have no problem eating sauerkraut and brats as the repeated gag states.) But these are minor issues with what is widely regarded to be a perfectly structured farce.
In Boeing Boeing, McDonnell puts another feather in his cap as a director of farces. Don’t miss its final weekend; it is definitely worth the trip to Visalia for the fun!
Remaining performances are Thursday, October 18 – 7:30 p.m., Student Night – $8.00 for ALL students with Student Body Card. Audience talkback afterward with actors, director, and designers. Friday, October 19 – 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 20 – 2:00 p.m. Saturday, October 20 – 7:30 p.m.
General: $12.00/ Students & Seniors: $10.00
Group Discount (15 or more): $8.00
COS Box Office is open Mon-Fri from 12:00-5:00 p.m. 559-730-3907
PG 13 – Production contains mature humor.
The College of the Sequoias Theater is located at 915 S. Mooney Blvd at Kaweah Avenue in Visalia.