Stage review

'Boeing Boeing' flies on laughs


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You can tell it’s a farce right off, with seven doors circling the living room set.

Those doors get a workout in “Boeing Boeing,” a 1960 French farce by Marc Camoletti that was originally a huge hit in London and a flop on Broadway. It was improbably reborn in London and on Broadway in 2007-08, made magical by Mark Rylance as Robert, a country innocent who is in awe of his urbane friend’s fail-proof system for keeping three beautiful women in simultaneous sexual rotation.

‘Boeing Boeing’

Where: Saint Vincent Summer Theatre, Carey Performing Arts Center, Saint Vincent College, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe.

When: Through July 5; 8:10 p.m. through Saturday; no performance Friday.

Tickets: $19 Tuesday-Thursday; $22 Saturday; 724-537-8900 or www.svst.org or email boxoffice@svst.org.

The three are, of course, stewardesses, that being the 1960s Playboy-esque standard for sexy availability. Bernard, Robert’s sophisticated urban counterweight, has realized that stewardi (the joke plural of the era) come and go with the predictable regularity of airline schedules, and to vary his pleasure, he has recruited three “fiancees” of different nationalities, flying for Lufthansa, Alitalia and TWA.

Bernard is all unctuous self-congratulation as he brags about his infallible scheme, which also depends on a long-suffering housekeeper-cook able to prepare meals to fit the three national preferences, and he presses Robert to stay and watch how well it works.

The three women are indeed delectable, but pride goeth, etc., and things start to go haywire as weather and bigger jets (curse that Boeing!) start messing up the schedule. Those doors (which are presumed to be sound-proof) start to get a heavy work-out as the three stewardesses are parked in different rooms in a mad juggling act in which mousy Robert is a willing and gradually more and more adept participant.

It’s all lighter than light and depends, as its history suggests, on a cast good enough to make this paper airplane fly.

In that respect, Saint Vincent is well-served. No one is more humorously self-confident than Michael Fuller (Bernard), and Kevin Daniel O’Leary (Robert) has an appropriate self-deprecation but with a growing glint in his eye.

The three stewardesses are fetchingly and vigorously played by Daina Michelle Griffith (German storm trooper one minute, kitten the next), Abby Quatro (tempestuous Italian) and Jenny Malarkey (voluble American). Patricia Reilly has the choice part of the housekeeper (variously played in London and New York by Jean Marsh, Rhea Perlman, Patricia Hodge, Frances de la Tour and Christine Baranski!).

There are plenty of laughs, but director Colleen Reilly might have pushed the cast to play faster, especially in the sluggish early going, which is necessarily burdened with exposition.

In addition, Mr. O’Leary doesn’t quite have the wondering bewilderment that makes Robert so funny (granted, no one should be measured against Mr. Rylance), and Ms. Reilly’s relentless deadpan gradually wears thin.

But the laughs accumulate along with the complications. “Boeing” is an entertaining entrant in the summer theater sweepstakes.


Senior theater critic Christopher Rawson: 412-216-1944.

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