Actors in Palo Alto Players’ ‘Boeing Boeing’ ready for the physical challenges of the show

Pulling off massive lies in the Facebook and Twitter era are nearly impossible. A simple bailing on a friend for lunch because of an “appointment” can explode into hurt feelings based on being “tagged” with another friend at a different location.

Clearly, these were not issues for those folks who occupied the 1960’s. There was only one efficient place to get in touch with a person, and that was through a rotary phone if the person was home.

In the farcical comedy “Boeing Boeing,” the hunky lothario Bernard doesn’t have to deal with social media. But he is facing other new technology, in the form of a much faster jet, which puts all three of his fiancés in the same place at the same time. Great for efficiency, bad for mac daddy status.

Palo Alto Players’ newest production, which opens Saturday, June 15th at the Lucie Stern Theater, features a cast that has certainly put on their running shoes to tackle this frenetically paced farce.  Written by French playwright Marc Camoletti in 1962, it ran on Broadway for a paltry 23 performances. Moving over to London’s West End saw much greater success, with a seven year run.

“The physicality of the show is pretty demanding, there’s nothing slow about it,” said Damaris Divito, who plays American fiancé Gloria. “Probably primary for me is to use my body and make it as big and sharp as possible.”

What is also demanding is playing characters that you have nothing to very little in common with. Mike Rhone, who plays Bernard, admits one aspect of his character would be a bit tricky for him in real life.

“Bernard is nothing like me, I could never pull off three people up in air at same time,” said Rhone. I think it’s fun to explore people who are not like you at all. It’s fun for my character to see it all kind of unravel.”

The cast of "Boeing Boeing," playing through June 30th at Palo Alto Players - MIke Rhone (c), (l to r) Damaris Devito, Robyn Winslow and Nicole Martin (Photo by Joyce Goldschmid)
The cast of “Boeing Boeing,” playing through June 30th at Palo Alto Players – MIke Rhone (c), (l to r) Damaris Divito, Robyn Winslow and Nicole Martin (Photo by Joyce Goldschmid)

Divito, on the other hand, definitely finds aspects of her character she thoroughly enjoys.

“What we do have in common is that we’re just happy people who have a spunk for life,” said Divito. “She sees much of her life through bright and happy colors, and is totally twinkly in the eyes most of the time.”

Nicole Martin, who plays the seductive Italian fiancé Gabriella, says the difficulty and challenge of keeping up with the farcical style of “Boeing Boeing” is all about the timing. There may be times when things change on a dime, and every actor needs to step up and own the moment.

“Knowing what the plan is in the scene helps, but being able to veer away from the plan also helps,” said Martin. “In the course of the run of a show, you discover little things that are cool, and you say ‘I’m going to do that again.’ Those moments of discovery are fun and keeps it alive and fresh for yourself.”

Bringing out these moments falls in the hands of director Jeanie Smith. Rhone said Smith has worked extremely hard to help shape every character.

“She’s got her own ideas as to who she thinks the characters are, and like any good director, listens to the actor’s takes on who we think the characters are,” said Rhone.

One of the toughest tasks acting in a show with a style as nuanced as a farce is the minutia. It’s not a style performed very often at most theatre companies, therefore not giving a ton of practical experience to those who take on the roles. But each actor has their own way of finding the needs of their character. The timing, the pace and the heightened reality all pose challenges for the actors, who are still trying to find truth in sublimely absurd situations.

Martin certainly has a unique way of preparing herself in order to find her truth on stage.
“I feel like I’m Godzilla backstage, feeling like I’m ready to thrash and pull out telephone poles,” said Martin. “It leads into similarities I portray, which are very emotional.”

“The reality is the show depends on very carefully timed entrances and exits, and the energy level keeps things frantic,” said Rhone. “Timing is the key thing to making it all work.”

Martin is having a blast with the show, and uses every ounce of energy to make things happen.

“There is so much running around, guys are throwing things at each other and grabbing each other,” said Martin. “The physical and mental stamina you need to have is challenging.”

And how does Martin quantify how physical this show is?

“The guys wear kneepads for goodness sake!”

WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO

Palo Alto Players presents “Boeing Boeing”
Written by Marc Camoletti
Directed by Jeanie Smith
June 14th – 30th, 2013
The Lucie Stern Theater
1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Tickets range from $20 – $29
For tickets, visit www.paplayers.org or call (650) 329-0891

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