If I were a betting man, I would bet your enjoyment of San Jose Stage’s production of French playwright Mark Camoletti’s“Boeing Boeing” is based on your own taste in comedy. And while that statement may be straight out of the gentle little town of Obviousville, it is really one of the better ways I can describe the show.
Certainly as a comedy fan, there is much to like about the production. Yet, for a farce, there were plenty of laughs, a few really good laughs, but nothing overtly hilarious. I can guarantee you, on the night I attended, there were certainly people in the audience who would take major issue with that statement. And they should.
The joy of the production really stems down to two things – the skill of a solid, ensemble cast (and hell, that is as ensemble as it gets), and what the individual audience member finds funny.
I certainly love me some farcical stuff. And “Boeing Boeing” doesn’t present just a farce. What this play and production, directed with fluidity by Kenneth Kelleher, actually does is grab the audience by their collective funny bones and clamp down on it, with no amount of mercy whatsoever. This cast puts their pedal to the medal and goes, goes, goes.
So here’s the story – you got this hot guy named Bernard (smugly comic Joshua Hollister). And he’s so hot he basically picks three female hots that work in three different airlines and shuffles them throughout his stylish bachelor pad, engaged to all three. And thanks to this amazing flight schedule book he has gotten his perfectly manicured hands on, he is able to keep track of each lady, when they come in, and when they go out.
This fantasy life just fascinates the hell out of his buddy Robert (slick and quick Michael Barrett Austin), who listens to Bernard describe this, Robert’s eyes getting bigger and more envious with every word. Robert is not exactly a ladies man. More like a ladies buddy. He’s cute, good for test kissing. But the real stuff? Nah.
The three ladies come with every goofy stereotype of their respective country they represent. There is dizty American Gloria (wonderful comic timing by Courtney Hatcher). Then you have the strict German Gretchen (always solid Allison F. Rich). Finally, there is a personal favorite, passionate Italian Gabriella (a big and bold Halsey Varady, my personal favorite performance). There is also the unsung, very reluctant hero Berthe (Celia Maurice), who changes photos and changes menus based on the lady occupying the French bachelor pad.
Berthe has some intense functions. First, she smokes with a scowl. Second, she seems to always be on the verge of cooking something.
The framework of the play fits nicely into the well-made play style – chaos, suspense and ultimately, a tidy, superfluous ending. Boeing jets got much faster, which is great for air travel, bad for lady juggling.
The technical aspects of the play were certainly solid, as they always are at San Jose Stage. A stark, white backdrop with splashes of color designed by Giulio Cesare Perrone gives the place a slick feel, a total guy pad with nary an ounce of a female touch. Well except for the bright colored bags that are often left behind, and a nice big beanbag pillow to assist in the hiding.
While the situation is solid and the play is tight and skillfully executed, plenty of good laughs. But belly laughs? They are there, but not in abundance for my taste.
“Boeing Boeing” does many good things, a play I would recommend. And just because I wasn’t rolling down the aisles ramming into beverage carts doesn’t mean that others weren’t. A skilled and talented cast took this grounded flight and put it up in the air. I just might not have been on the plane.
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
San Jose Stage Company presents “Boeing Boeing”
Written by Mark Camoletti
Translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans
Directed by Kenneth Kelleher
The Word: A play that works best based on the comic tastes of the audience member. Still, a very slick and often funny take on this aerodynamic farce.
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
Through May 1st
San Jose Stage Company
490 S. First Street
San Jose, CA
Tickets range from $30 – $65
For tickets, call (408) 283-7142 or visit www.thestage.org