Sharp wit and perfect timing make for an enjoyable time at John W. Engeman Theatre's new production of the on-target farce.
Check your boarding pass and buckle your seatbelts for the current production of Boeing Boeing at John W. Engeman Theater at Northport. You're at great risk of falling from your seat as you clutch your stomach in laughter, and you wouldn't want to be aided by the wacky flight attendants on this stage. The humor flies high from beginning to end in this farce of epic proportions.
In Marc Camoletti's Tony Award-winning comedy we meet Bernard (Peter Simon Hilton), a successful architect living in retro grandeur in a 1960s Paris apartment. We get to watch and enjoy as he handles three fiancées who are all flight attendants with distinctively different personalities. Thanks to careful airline-schedule planning, the aid of his French housekeeper Berte (Kate Skinner), and the naïve help of his old friend Robert (John Scherer), Bernard is able to keep the affairs on track. When a new, faster Boeing jet is introduced, the stage is set for a whirlwind of hijinks.
The timing in BT McNicholl's direction is impeccable, as he craftily weaves his actors to and from multiple rooms, "just missing" one another as Bernard attempts to keep his betrothed apart. Boeing Boeing's dialogue is fast-paced and McNicholl's direction crafty as his actors handle tossing their lines around with humor and ease.
The women in this show are as colorful and vibrant as Emily DeAngelis' eye-popping costumes. Erin Leigh Peck's American flight attendant is as sexy as she is loony, shouting "Shazam!" as she tries to lure Robert into bed. Michele Ragusa plays the Italian Gabriella with loud sincerity, making an art of an incredulous pose. Luba Mason steals the show as the German Gretchen. Her pronounced accent, garrulous stance, and enormous facial expressions only complement her comical yet attractive appeal. In a showstopping scene she rolls around the floor, awkwardly clutching a coffee table to exhibit that she is "mad with happiness!" Scherer's Robert becomes frantic when the fiancées' schedules begin to coincide, much to the delight of the audience. It's possible that no actor in regional theater has shaken and stuttered with such voracious appeal. McNicholl's eye for moments that harmonize with physical comedy are easily meshed with the talent of the actors in this production.
Jonathan Collins' well-crafted set features a modish color scheme of pastel blues and silvers, allowing the colors of the flight attendants' period dresses to take center stage. That being said, there is little need for Philip S. Rosenberg's lighting design to blatantly change with the appearance of each woman: a red glow with the red dress, a yellow tint with the yellow dress, etc.
Boeing Boeing held the world record for being the longest-running comedy in London's West End for a reason. The words on the page are clever and entertaining enough, but with a cast and creative team as talented and imaginative as those involved with John W. Engeman Theatre's production, it's a play that is sure to fly high.