Boeing-Boeing by Marc Camoletti, translated by Beverley Cross & Francis Evans. Directed by Phil Rice.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
Dominick Varney - not a photo from this production
"Save your pass- i - on for Monsieur Bernard!"
Somehow in 1965 with only 23 total performances I managed to see the first Broadway production of this comedy. I donít remember it being funny; in fact I remember that it wasnít. When it was revived in 2008 and received amazingly good notices I didnít feel obliged to see it again when I knew it wasnít funny. Apparently the transition, abetted by a second adaptor/translator, one Francis Evans, brought true humor into play and the current production at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon, New York is very funny indeed.
Stretched somewhere between a situation comedy and a French farce with the classic seven doors, this production is the perfect example of summer fare: a light confection with just enough substance to it to keep you engaged while youíre being amused. The play is helped along by the presence of a handsome and hilariously funny cast of characters, wonderfully played by an ensemble of deliciously manic actors. Multiple accents (French, Italian, German, American Southern), pretty bodies, handsome faces and supple, and an ability to simultaneously slam doors that creates a single sound all go a long way in the presentation here. Director Phil Rice is a master of control when it comes to these matters and he proves once again that almost no one working regionally is better at this mixed marriage of miraculous metaphors.
In brief: Bernard, in his Paris apartment, has three airline stewardess mistresses. None of them know about the others. An old school chum, an American who has never has a mistress, comes for a surprise visit and finds himself the first of several surprises as all three women end up coming "home" to the apartment on the same night. The classic elements of farce comedy are in place but this isnít just farcical, it is comic on a wide variety of levels.
Vanessa Dunleavy plays Gloria, the American girlfriend. She is pert, southern, shrill, and determined to win any situation in which she finds herself. Dunleavy plays her very well. Kathleen Boddington is the Italian girl, Gabriella. She is fire and force. She is determined and maniacally focused. Boddington plays her like Gina Lollobrigida and it works. Melissa MacLeod Herion plays the German girl Gretchen and she plays her like a wet Romy Schneider. She is cool and determined, brittle and dangerous. All three women manage wonderful realizations of their stews, bringing national characteristics to the fore and playing against one another leaving no stone unturned in their determination to the "one" girl in Bernardís life.
Meg Dooley plays the fourth woman in the apartment, Bertha the maid. Awkwardly wearing a stage French accent, she is hilarious as the only person who knows what is going on most of the time but who cannot deal with it rationally. She is very funny indeed, sometimes funnier than anyone else with one exception: Robert.
Robert is played by the human rubberband, Dominick Varney. His body is so supple, his face so easily contorted, his reactions so broad and his verbal communication so slithery that he never stops amusing the audience. Nothing he does is anticipated nor is it telegraphed. He is a constant set of surprises. His realization of this character is unusually fine and as a result he garners both laughter and applause.
As his friend, and troublemaking lover-man, Matthew Daly returns to the "Barn" to play Bernard with a wicked look in his eye and a mischievous smile on his lips. We are happy when he overplays a moment here and there, and happier still when he nails a reaction or drops a funny line on his compatriotsí laps. Long a favorite performer at the Theater Barn newcomers and old-timers alike will enjoy his deep immersion into the role. He feels like Bernard, looks and smells like him. He joyously surrounds his space with his own presence, doubling in size periodically just by smiling or announcing an impelled conclusion to a problem. It is great to have him back on the local scene once again.
Abe Phelps has designed one of his best sets for this play. An almost oval garden of a room fills the stage its seven doors reaching into depths we can only imagine. Alyssa Couturier provides costumes that are just enough indicative of the timeset of the play.
A perfect Friday night laugh-fest, this play was a deserved flop in 1965 and today emerges as a Tony Award winning comedy revival, one with almost 300 performances on Broadway. Here at last is a show to go back to again and again, if there was time and there was money enough to do so.
Boeing-Boeing plays through July at the Theater Barn, 654 Route 20, New Lebanon, NY. For information and tickets call the box office at 518-794-8989.