It’s the swinging sixties in Paris, and Parisian bachelor Bernard (Christopher Holt) and he believes he has contrived the Platonic ideal of marriage for his time and place: three simultaneous fiancées, none aware of the other, all airline hostesses and all thus carefully scheduled per the infallible air timetables. What could possibly go wrong? About what you would expect, but quite winningly, in Boeing Boeing, by Marc Camoletti, to close out the Theater at Monmouth’s Vive La France season, under the direction of Dawn McAndrews.
We walk into the house to the mild and lovely strains of French pop, and it’s ever clear how tickled Monmouth’s designers are to indulge in the era’s vibe: everything looks and sounds perfectly fab. Bernard’s spacious flat features Mod furniture and a globe to the left, Old World upholstery and a bar to the right; silver fringe in one doorway and three other molded doors, all readied for farce. Into this flat he welcomes beautifully coiffed woman in uniforms of wonderfully Technicolor nylon: First, treacly TWA hostess Gloria (Lisa Woods), from the American South, in sky-blue pencil-skirt, jacket, and cap, with candy-red piping, heels, and lipstick. Next, mellifluous and elegant Air Italia hostess Gabriella (Ally Farzetta) in pale green and ivory ruffles. Finally, the passionate Gretchen (Lindsay Tornquist), of Lufthansa, in yellow and a Teutonic braid. Each sweeps in with a delectable entrance, charm, and affection for both Bernard and his visiting friend from “the provinces,” Robert (Michael Dix Thomas), who in his unmatched suit and bumbling provides a winning comic counterpoint to Bernard’s “sophistication.”
Airline timetables are nothing on which to base a complicated polygamy, and Monmouth’s cast makes excellent work of the proceeding farce in both rhythm and tenor. Pacing is nicely varied but fleet in all the right places – as the flights are delayed and the women just missing each other. Further elevating timing and tone is the marvelous Wendy Way as Bertha, the long-suffering, scowling, ruthlessly sarcastic maid. All she has to do is give Bernard a look – let alone a belittling grin or a perfectly sarcastic “Yes, Sir” – to punctuate the comedy of his well-deserved mess. As for the women, Woods, Farzetta, and Tornquist walk a well-balanced line between international caricatures and the comedic realism of women in love and, increasingly, exasperated.
They’re real people in a way that callow Bernard isn’t until he’s forced to be, and Holt, wisely, makes the bigamist less a caricature of a playboy than a little boy posing as a grown-up and surprised and proud that he’s getting away with it. His Bernard’s full-force lampoonery doesn’t kick in until the multiple doors start opening and closing in dangerously close progression; in his quieter prequel to the chaos, he plays him low – this isn’t some outrageously charismatic man; he’s just an ordinary guy who can read the airline timetables. The choice has the effect of further sending up the male-fantasy aspect of the show in a way that makes its 1960s assumptions somewhat more palatable.
Still, don’t expect comeuppance for him or Robert – this is farce. He ultimately does get to learn his lesson about true love and get a second chance to actually have it. The script also uses the resolution to invoke some stereotypes about the sexuality of marriage-bound women, and American women alone get a surprisingly scathing critique as mercenaries in a litigation-crazy landscape of marriage. But then again, we’re not watching for substance. Boeing Boeing is a romp, and Monmouth makes it swing and take flight just as bouncily as the title promises.
Boeing Boeing, by Marc Camoletti | Translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans | Directed by Dawn McAndrews | Produced by the Theater at Monmouth | Through Sept. 25 | Visit http://theateratmonmouth.org.