John Scherer and Beth Leavel
in Boeing-Boeing
(©T. Charles Erickson)
John Scherer and Beth Leavel
in Boeing-Boeing
(©T. Charles Erickson)
While James Brennan's new production of Marc Camoletti's 1960s farce, Boeing-Boeing, at the Paper Mill Playhouse, is not nearly as hilarious or inspired as the show's recent Broadway revival, it still manages to provide a generous dose of silly fun and lighthearted entertainment.

The play begins with Bernard (Matt Walton), a well-to-do American architect, welcoming his oddball school pal Robert (John Scherer) to his Paris bachelor pad and explaining his convoluted system of juggling three different fiancées at once, which happens to be driving his aggravated French housekeeper Berthe (Beth Leavel) into insanity.

The fiancées -- the German Gretchen (Anne Horak), the Italian Gabriella (Brynn O'Malley) and the American Gloria (Heather Parcells) -- are all stewardesses working for different airlines. By following a comprehensive airline timetable that ensures each girl will arrive in Paris on different days, Bernard can keep on living the high life. Needless to say, things don't go according to plan on the day of Robert's arrival, leaving him and Bernard trying desperately to sort out the mess.

While no one can accuse James Brennan of not acknowledging the play's broad slapstick style or chaotic momentum, he pushes his cast so hard that the physical comedy comes off as unnaturally forced. The bedlam often becomes too over-the-top - such as when Robert farts repeatedly, offers repeated spit takes or attempts to hide an erection. The actors also speak so loudly that it will be a wonder if they are able to sustain their voices for the entire short run.

Leavel, in a frizzy gray wig, makes for an unglamorously frumpy and agitated Berthe. At one point, when the chaos becomes too much to endure, she staggers slowly down a small set of stairs, clutching desperately to the railing in a disoriented stupor.

The handsome Walton drops his character's cocky and calm persona once he understands the reality of his situation; Scherer stresses Robert's childlike innocence and eagerness, makes larger-than-life facial expressions (usually involving raised eyebrows) and throws his entire body into the role.

Horak is an aggressively vigorous Gretchen; Parcells plays up Gloria's pampered personality and O'Malley projects a fiery presence whenever Gabriella grows suspicious of Bernard.