By RJ Johnson
Sometimes it’s funny to see how much the world has changed over the last few decades. In ‘Boeing, Boeing’, the summer farce by Marc Camoletti, and directed by Krista Schwarting, which opened last weekend at Cyrano’s, it’s very funny.
It’s the 1960’s and swinging bachelor Bernard could not be happier with a flat in Paris and three gorgeous stewardesses, or air hostesses as they were called, all engaged to him without knowing about each other. Bernard’s life is about to get bumpy when his friend Robert comes to stay, and a new and speedier Boeing jet throws off all his careful planning. Soon, all three of his fiancées are in town simultaneously, timid Robert is forgetting which lies to tell to whom, and catastrophe is looming. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!
Set design by Rachael Androski is a true success when it comes to this show. From the art on the walls to the pillows on the couch, everything is perfectly mod, without feeling dated. Each prop and set piece fits in perfectly with the whirlwind story and action that happen around it. Special note must also be made of the sturdy set construction which was put to the test with the multiple doors that are slammed shut almost every single time they are opened. Lighting by Frank Hardy is subtle and effective, as is to be expected from this respected member of the arts community. The music before the show and at intermission was perfect for the time period, and the sound effects were a nice touch, with the levels never becoming obtrusive or excessive. Instead, they assisted in taking the audience further into the show. Kudos to Paul Rios for his expertise in that area.
Evan Carson takes on the lead role of Bernard, the philandering American businessman who keeps a rotating schedule of international women. While his character’s actions are entirely unlikeable, Carson plays him with such charm that you almost forgive his dishonesty while watching him explain the ways that he schemes in the name of love. His long-suffering maid Berthe, played with perfection by the always stunning Julia Cossman, instantly became an audience favorite with her sassy demeanor and excellent ability to command each scene that she was in. Cossman’s Berthe is not your typical American ideal of what a French maid could be, straying away from a coquettish giggle, and being more an exhausted mother hen to her playboy employer. My guests commented how much her accent and attitude reminded them of their own friend, herself a strong and determined French woman.
Coming directly from Wisconsin on his very first international vacation, Bernard’s childhood friend Robert is portrayed by the talented actor R. Scott Cantrell. Cantrell is always a presence on stage, so it is wonderful to see him playing a character that is awkward and unsure. His physical comedy skills are matched only by his wonderful use of eye movement and vocal technique on stage.
The three fiancées each get their time with Bernard, and as such, each of the three young women portraying them get a well-deserved moment in the spotlight. We first meet Gloria, the American, brought to life by Alexis Sheeder. She is practical, logical, stable, and loving as she tries to figure out why Berthe has such an attitude whether she is coming or going. Sheeder’s portrayal of this character is very fun to see, and her transformation from Act 1 to Act 2 is likeable and helped me enjoy the show even that much more. Rebecca Gamache as Gabriella, the Italian, is perfectly cast. Curvy and cunning, Gamache takes this part and makes it her own. In what could have turned into a caricature performance, the character is given depth and strength amidst the door slamming and histrionics. Last, but very far from least, we meet Gretchen, the German, who absolutely explodes on to the stage with a performance from Jacqueline Hoffman. This actress knows that comedy is at its best when it is left to exist, and never tries to force a laugh. Her natural timing and presence are a perfect match for the numerous hilarious scenes involving Gretchen and Cantrell’s Robert. The pair had the audience roaring in laughter with their antics.
Krista Schwarting has really done something special with this show and the team that she had working with her. The multiple accents used throughout were always just enough, and never distracting from the very funny script. The casting of the actors is spot on, and the pacing of the show never felt like it was dragging. At times, the lines are being hurled across stage rapid fire and even with the amount of practice that must have taken, they seemed completely natural and unrehearsed. Schwarting has always done wonderful things with serious works of theatre but in Boeing, Boeing she proves her versatility and strength as a director.
As always, in the patron lounge at Cyrano’s the art show correlates with the current production. The current offering, ‘Pack Your Bags’ by Gina Edwards could be one of the best matched yet. Seemingly simple paintings of different countries a reminiscent of postage stamps, and the longer you study each piece, you begin to see the detail and time that the artist much have spent on each one. Whether Edwards has traveled to each of these places or not, you can see that her heart travels often, and leaves a little bit of itself in each work of art.
Boeing, Boeing runs through August 25th. Tickets available at centertix.com or by calling 263-ARTS
Visit cyranos.org for more information