Boeing Boeing Takes Off with a Flight Filled with Laughs

Originally written in 1960 by French playwright Marc Camoletti and first translated into English in 1962 by Beverly Cross, Boeing Boeing is a farcical romp through one man’s love life as he juggles three fiances. Each of his fiances is an airline stewardess one with Lufthansa, one with TWA, and one flying Alitalia. Neither is aware of the existence of the others and Bernard, the bachelor Lothario, juggles them all in and out of his Paris flat based upon the flight time schedules and a devoted maid who spends her time knowing what to cook for each of the ladies and making certain the correct photos are in the flat along with her color coded apron. Things run relatively smoothly as this was back in the day when airline service was predominantly on time and reliable! Bernard’s best friend Robert drops in rather unexpectedly and watches the entire situation begin to unravel.

Typical slapstick and quite predictably, the entire situation begins to unwind then nosedive to what appears to be a crash landing when the weather interrupts flights and a new faster Boeing jet is put into service thus messing with the sacred travel times and arrival and departure schedules. The play is, in many respects, quite predictable, yet it will make you laugh out loud over and over again. Doors slam, people get pushed into bedrooms and the inevitable photos start to lose their proper place in the frames. While the show is dated, Classic Theater Guild’s founder and the play’s director Glenn Read has put his nearly 25 years of community theater experience to good use, steering his cast through this most enjoyable romp. He keeps the action moving and both the cast and audience on their toes as the laughs keep coming. Steve Suriano and Bill Wilday’s set design works well on this relatively small stage making use of the requisite number of doors for the cast to keep coming and going through at any given moment.

Ben Amey’s Bernard is the right amount of self-satisfied egoism and flustered mania as he orchestrates the chaos around him. Isabella Varno, Olga N. Bogdanova, and Rebecca Flinker are equally at home as the three unwittingly used stewardesses, all have great timing and each one plays her part as if she were the only fiance, though interestingly, none of them seem particularly upset when the plot is exposed. The show, however, belongs to the exquisite timing and delivery of the two lesser characters and the actors who inhabit them. Christine Vermilyea as Berthe the maid has incredible deadpan delivery. She is the lynchpin that keeps the home intact and in fact, allows for this nonsense to keep on course for as long as it does. Russell Roberts as best friend Robert is an absolute joy to watch. From panic to love, he channels his emotions to the audience with precision and perfection.

The most interesting takeaway from this production is, it is a piece that could never have been written in today’s world, let alone most probably ever had a production mounted. At the time it was most likely viewed as a harmless bit of fun… today it would have been assassinated by every group with a cause. It presents an interesting slice of theater and life of 50 years ago that even by the standards of the day, had to be considered to be farcical, but perhaps people went to the theater more to be entertained and escape reality than without looking for social context. Or, maybe Camoletti was making a social comment on the times… Whatever the reason, it became the most translated French play in the world by 1991, so it must have offered the public something!

Whatever the reason, Boeing Boeing is at the least, a slice of theatrical history, a plane full of laughs, and worth the time to see it.

Classic Theater Guild’s production is presented at Congregation Beth Israel on Eastern Parkway in Schenectady. You must show proof of vaccination and be masked to attend. The second week of performances has been rescheduled to November 10-14. For ticket information call 518-387-9150.

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