Theatergoers wanting to start off the New Year with a good laugh—or a thousand of them—are hereby advised to head on over to the La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts where McCoy Rigby Entertainment is opening its 2013 season with Marc Camoletti’s saucy, sexy French farce Boeing-Boeing.
Those of a certain age may recall Boeing-Boeing from its 1965 movie adaptation, one which starred Tony Curtis as Camoletti’s Don Juan-like hero Bernard, an American living in Paris who has found a most delectable way of having his gâteau and eating it too. Thanks to a book of airline timetables kept always at hand, Casanova Bernard has managed to juggle a grand total of three international air hostess fiancées, aided and abetted in his romantic deception by his disapproving but loyal maid, a crustily American Thelma Ritter on film, but tsk-tskingly française in the 2008 Tony-winning Best Broadway Revival (translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans), the version now onstage in La Mirada.
Tall, suave, and handsome Carter Roy is McCoy Rigby’s Bernard, each of whose fiancées shares his luxurious Parisian digs two days a week. Mondays and Tuesdays belong to perky New Yorker Gloria (Melanie Lora), Wednesdays and Thursdays to Italian bombshell Gabriella (Kalie Quinones), and Fridays and Saturdays to German dynamo Gretchen (Amy Rutberg). Bernard reserves Sundays for R & R, or perhaps just R, there already having been plenty of R the six previous days, with Berthe (Michelle Azar) snorting disdain at every opportunity.
Boeing-Boeing’s frenetic web of a plot unfolds over a single day during which a pair of events rock Bernard’s heretofore perfect world. The first is a visit from his heretofore very sheltered Wisconsin school chum Robert (Jerry Lewis on film and Marc Valera here), who, once informed about Bernard’s juggling act, finds himself at first aghast, then green with envy, and ultimately eager to emulate Bernard’s lothario ways. The second is news of the introduction of the Super-Boeing, a jet whose greatly increased speed will mean all-new schedules for Bernard’s three fiancées. Add to that a combination of delayed flights and severe turbulence and you have the perfect setup for a master farce.
Act One prepares us for the frantic mayhem of Act Two when, as we’ve been eagerly anticipating all the way up to intermission, all three fiancées find themselves in Bernard’s apartment. Bernard of course, must find a way to keep them apart, a task somewhat facilitated by the seven doors leading off from the living room. (As in any farce, at least half a dozen doors are de rigueur. Otherwise, there could be no hiding behind them or emerging from them or slamming them, n’est-ce pas?)
Under Jeff Maynard’s sparklingly deft direction, the entire cast acquit themselves with flying colors, to wit TWA red, Alitalia blue, and Lufthansa yellow (with a bit of envious Robert green thrown in for good measure).
Roy has just the right leading man looks and comedic chops to bring Bernard to charismatic life, a life that becomes increasingly chaotic (and hilarious to spy on) as he finds himself with three different fiancées behind three different doors and no easy way out of the hole he’s dug himself into.
Valera’s Robert starts out such a nondescript Wisconsinite that you almost expect him to fade into the walls. Then, as Bernard comes more and more to depend on his friend to get him out of the mess he’s created for himself, and as Robert becomes more and more aware of his own power as a man, pussycat blossoms into tiger to such an extent that it’s no wonder that at least one of Bernard’s honeys starts lusting after her fiancé’s Wisconsin pal. It’s at this point that Valera gets to prove himself a master of physical comedy in scenes opposite the brilliantly scene-stealing Rutberg as every red-blooded American’s Teutonic dream (or nightmare), sexy, appealing, and daunting as all get-out from her very first, “Clear the runway, Gretchen ist hier!” entrance. When Robert and Gretchen start falling for each other, the duo’s performances rise to a whole new level of Wunderbar.
SoCal favorite Lora is peppy perfection as Gloria, an All-American gal whose blonde 1960s flip presages her unexpectedly kinky flip side when things get fast and furious in Act Two. Quinones blends the best of va-va-voomy ‘60s stars Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, and Gina Lollobrigida in a molto deliziosa performance as Italian ball-of-fire Gabriella. Azar is a disapproving delight as housekeeper Berthe, whose insistence on pronouncing French-English cognates à la française every time she gets the “shahnce” had this reviewer in stitches.
Scenic designer Kevin Clowes’ eye-catching rendering of Bernard’s Parisian digs has just the right swinging ‘60s look and feel, and all seven doors specified in Camoletti’s script, though I’d have preferred a mirroring of costume designer Helen Butler’s rainbow of colors rather than the set’s preference for TWA red. (The Broadway revival design carried through the tricolor scheme in the roses Berthe changed every other day and other assorted onstage paraphernalia.) Butler’s costumes are all 1960s gems as are Sarah Wolfe’s hair, wig, and makeup designs. Jean-Yves Tessier lights Bernard’s flat with his accustomed expertise. Josh Bessom’s clever sound design features a pre-show and between-scene medley of French-language covers of American ‘60s hits. Last but not least is some groovy curtain call choreography.
Buck Mason is general manager, David Cruise technical director, Terry Hanrahan assistant stage manager/prop coordinator, and Lisa Palmire production stage manager.
McCoy Rigby Entertainment has once again programmed one of the Southland’s most eclectic 2013 seasons with its combination of hit plays and Broadway musical smashes, all of them produced from scratch for L.A. theater audiences. Boeing-Boeing gets 2013 going with a supersonic Boeing-Boeing boom of a start.
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Boulevard, La Mirada.
January 19, 2013
Photos: Michael Lamont