Vicki Paris Goodman
It’s amazing how many different ways writers of farce think up to tell the same story. You know the one: A playboy has several different girlfriends, each of whom thinks she is his one and only. He thinks he’s got things organized down to a science such that there is no chance that more than one of the women will be on hand at any given time. Then things go awry, and his best-laid plans backfire when the women show up all at once. Yada yada yada.
So imagine my surprise when the Long Beach Playhouse production of Boeing Boeing turned out to be fresh and utterly delightful, in no small part due to mostly fabulous casting. Playwright Marc Camoletti’s creative take on the theme helps out, as well.
Upon entering the theater, audience members are wowed by one of the best Playhouse sets ever. Set designer Greg Fritsche’s fabulous 1960s bachelor pad is to die for.
In Boeing Boeing, committed bachelor Bernard (Scott T. Finn) has three fiancées, all flight attendants for different airlines. Each of the women calls Bernard’s apartment “home” and believes she is the lady of the house. Of course, Bernard adores each and every one of them and has no intention of ever getting married. He keeps close track of each fiancée’s airline schedule, believing his system is foolproof. In his mind never the twain, nor trio, shall meet. Right….
Several details give the play a distinctive panache. One is the fact that Bernard’s apartment is near Orly Airport in Paris. As such, his hard-working housekeeper Berthe (Chiquita Fuller) is a French maid, though less formal and far more put upon than the stereotype would dictate. The other stylish aspect is that the three women are an international assortment, one being a New Yorker, another Italian, and one German.
Remember those wonderful form-fitting stewardess uniforms of the ‘60s? They were skirted suits with collared scoop necklines and 3/4 sleeves, worn with iconic caps or scarves. Hairdos were neat as a pin, and make-up was just so. Costume designer Donna Fritsche nailed it.
Tiffany Toner plays the perky and energetic Gloria, whose crisp New York accent and sensibility comes across as realistic as can be. Eva Dailey’s sensuous Italian Gabriella is also the real deal. But it is Lacy Prince in the role of German fiancée Gretchen who steals the show. Her abrupt commands and responses are priceless. And the chemistry she establishes with Bernard’s old friend and unexpected visitor Robert (Tom Metcalf) sizzles. Metcalf takes quite a few serious pratfalls during the course of a performance, leading to audience hysterics but, we hope, no bruises nor broken bones.
In the end, a newer, faster jet and bad weather combine to place all three of the women “at home” at once. The usual frantic excuses pour forth to keep one woman from entering a room occupied by another. All the while, maid Berthe’s predicament is almost as complicated as Bernard’s as she works hard to accommodate the food preferences of all of the women while struggling to keep Bernard’s secret from coming out.
James Rice’s direction is spot-on.
Finally, Bernard is forced to admit his foolish over-confidence, and love dictates more permanent pairings.
As the holidays approach and things get stressful, give yourself a break. Catch a performance of this adorable production of Boeing Boeing. You’ll be glad you did.
Boeing Boeing continues on the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage through Saturday, Dec. 7. General-admission tickets are $24, senior tickets are $21, and student tickets are $14 with valid ID. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, with Sunday matinees at 2pm. The Long Beach Playhouse is located at 5021 E. Anaheim St. Call (562) 494-1014, option 1, for reservations and information. Tickets are also available at lbplayhouse.org .