THEATER REVIEW Laughter soars in PPH 'Boeing, Boeing'
Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illick's Mill Road, Bethlehem leads off its 2013 "Director's Cut" season with the divine farce, "Boeing Boeing," weekends through Feb. 3. This bit of mid-century madness is a revival of the 1960 French play written by Marc Camoletti and translated into English by Beverly Cross and Francine Evans. It was also released as a Hollywood film in 1965 starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis.
The comedy, featuring a six-member ensemble, is a fast-paced romp with each cast member having an equally important role in the furthering and ultimately resolving of the plot.
Bernard (Seth Rohr-bach) is an American playboy enjoying what he perceives to be the perfect life in his large flat in Paris. Situated conveniently close to the airport, he is juggling a trio of international stewardesses who each believe they are engaged to be married to Bernard and are unaware of the others.
Bernard has this juggling routine down to a science as he meticulously consults airline timetables to ensure the three women never cross flight paths. His American TWA "fiancé" Gloria (Joanne Rooney) is home in the mornings, his Italian Alitalia "fiancé" Gabriella (Kelly-Anne Rohrbach) arrives during the afternoon after Gloria has departed and the scenario repeats in the evening when German Lufthansa "fiancé" Gretchen (Annie Locke) arrives following Gabriella's exit.
Of course, Bernard has no intention of marrying any of the ladies, as he explains to his old friend from the United States, the wide-eyed Robert (Mark A. Saylor), who arrives at Bernard's flat for an unexpected visit. Bernard is able to keep up the charade with the help of his put-upon French maid Bethe (Beth Linzer), who must change bedside photos of each girl before they arrive and create meals specific to each one's regional palate.
Like all great farces, Bernard runs into turbulence when weather, airline schedules and faster aircraft (the Boeing jet) leave all three stewardesses in Paris at the same time. Rohrbach is pitch-perfect in his role going from smug to unraveled within the span of the three-act play as his best-laid plan falls apart.
Saylor is pure fun to watch as Robert. The strapping young actor employs physical comedy in a way that is reminiscent of actors from the golden age of slapstick comedy. His antics are the source of many smiles and laughter throughout the play.
Linzer has shining moments throughout as Bernard's dutiful yet frustrated maid. It is her task to ensure the transition between the stewardesses arrival and departure is a smooth one. Linzer's character has some of the best lines in the play and she delivers with her expressive facial expressions and mannerisms, all while maintaining a French accent.
Kelly Ann-Rohrbach as Gabriella and Annie Locke as Gretchen also have to perform their parts in their character's respective accents, Italian and German. This is not an easy task to accomplish for any actor throughout a two-hour production, but they are more than capable of making audiences believe they are from their respective countries. Both actresses have strong comedic chops and incredible stage presence. Here's hoping audiences will see them in more comedies in the future.
Joanne Rooney as Gloria the worldly American ups the ante on her character's sex appeal. Flashing Robert while wearing only a bath towel or stealing kisses while Bernard's back is turned, she is played by Rooney as sassy and no nonsense while generating her fair share of the laughs. Rooney is a gem.
Everything about this production just works so perfectly. The costumes of the three stewardesses are bold in their primary hues of red, yellow and blue. They remind one of a time when flying commercial airlines was glamorous and fun.
The stage design, with set construction by Charlie Sivick, is roomy for the physical comedy antics but with just enough props to look realistic, a nice touch is the paint on the stage floor that from the seats looks convincingly like a genuine hardwood floor. The walls are constructed sturdily and survive plenty of door slamming with nary a tremor.
Director Mark Briener and has raised the bar in this opener of the Pennsylvania Playhouse season. Theater-goers better get "going, going" and catch "Boeing Boeing" before it departs for parts unknown.