MONMOUTH — The folks at the Theater at Monmouth are bringing their summer season in for a soft landing with a delightful French farce from the early 1960s.
Marc Camoletti’s “Boeing Boeing,” which had an award-winning revival on Broadway a few years back, has a certain quaint feel to it, not the least for its view of the logistics of commercial air travel. But that, along with an unfettered zaniness, serves to create a nice comfort zone in which audiences can enjoy some old-school comedy with just a hint of a message thrown in.
The story concerns Bernard, a Parisian bachelor who manages to keep his “international harem” of three air hostesses from knowing about each other by carefully monitoring their flight schedules. He brags to his visiting pal Robert that his scheme is “so precise as to almost be poetic.” When one leaves, another arrives, and so on. Though Robert initially disapproves of his friend’s lifestyle, he’s also drawn to it, especially when he gets to meet the attractive young women involved.
Complications ensue when changes in flight plans unexpectedly bring all three hostesses to Bernard’s apartment at the same time. Bernard and Robert, with the “help” of the feisty housekeeper Bertha, frantically try to keep them separated. Despite much quick thinking and fast talking by the men, though, things inevitably begin to unravel.
Director Dawn McAndrews has tweaked the play in a couple of minor ways but has kept the focus on the comedy, ranging from the broadly physical to slightly subtler themes involving gender and ethnic stereotypes.
Christopher Holt, who began the Monmouth season as Cyrano, has a ball with his role as the anti-heroic Bernard, a man just a little too smugly proud of himself until circumstances push him toward a sputtering “nervous breakdown.” His work with Michael Dix Thomas, who plays Robert, involves a sort of affable fencing, as the two first debate the merits of Bernard’s love life, then try to coordinate its rescue from ruin.
Thomas matches Robert’s superficial nerdiness with a resourceful undercurrent, particularly as he becomes smitten with one of the hostesses. The action follows him, as much as Holt, and at Friday’s opening he stood out on a stage full of performers spiritedly giving it their comedic all.
Lindsay Tornquist was a hoot as Gretchen, employing pliant facial features to reveal her character’s conflicting dominant/submissive attitudes toward men. An exaggerated German accent was just one of the tricks up her sleeve in fully establishing a memorable comedic persona.
Lisa Woods, as the American Gloria, and Ally Farzetta, as the Italian Gabriella, were not far behind Tornquist. Woods drawled her way through wacky speeches about “technical” kissing and the economics of marriage on her way to asserting a final independence. Farzetta gave her earthy moralist a few twists of her own.
Wendy Way took full advantage of her opportunities to steal scenes as the French housekeeper who, in one particularly over-the-top moment, explains what separates humans from “beasts.”
The set, by Jim Alexander, allows for the numerous exits and entrances that keep the pace of the just-over-two-hour show appropriately fast.
Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.