Farce goes modern with 'Boeing Boeing'
“Flying the friendly skies” takes on a whole new meaning for Bernard, the lead character in “Boeing Boeing,” a farce running the next three weekends at St. Vincent Summer Theatre near Latrobe.
Bernard is an American architect living in Paris in 1961. He is “engaged” to three stewardesses from different countries, with no intention of marrying any of them. The women know nothing about each other. They work for different airlines and have varying work schedules. The arrangement suits Bernard perfectly.
“He's pretty confident that his system is flawless,” director Colleen Reilly says.
Inevitably, the three women show up one after another at Bernard's apartment when their flights are canceled. At the same time, his naive friend Robert, who disapproves of Bernard's scheming, also arrives. The fun begins when the two men struggle to keep the women hidden from each other.
“It's an original twist on some of the classic farce elements,” Reilly says. The play is filled with the slamming doors, mistaken identities and misunderstandings that mark the genre.
“Most farces are built around very contrived, implausible plots,” Reilly says. “This is a very fresh way to do it.”
The play was popular in the 1960s and again as a revival in 2008, when it won a Tony Award for best revival of a play. It also was listed in the 1991 Guinness Book of World Records as the most-performed French play around the world.
The scheming, arrogant Bernard is played by Michael Fuller.
“He's a Casanova,” Fuller says. “He has three different fiancees … and has no qualms about it. He's against marriage.”
Although Bernard is smug to the point of being obnoxious, “it's so over-the-top that it's funny,” Fuller says. “You know the guy's going to have a fall because of the way he sets himself up. He's too confident.”
The fun for the audience comes in watching Bernard's well-deserved downfall.
Kevin Daniel O'Leary plays Robert, Bernard's friend.
“I love Robert because he goes through the whole spectrum of emotions during the two hours the audience is watching him,” O'Leary says. Robert's reactions range from anxiety about Bernard's shenanigans to irritation with the maid. Eventually, he falls in love.
“There's a whole lot of stuff I get to go through for this role, and it makes it a whole lot of fun,” O'Leary says. After the premise of the show is set up, the plot races forward “like lightning,” he adds. “I haven't had this much fun in a long time.”
Both Fuller and O'Leary are fans of the genre.
“I love farce,” says O'Leary, who is in his sixth summer with St. Vincent Summer Theatre. “It's so far-fetched. It's real people in absolutely ridiculous situations. It's hilarious.”
This play in particular has become one of O'Leary's favorites. “It's one of the funniest plays I've ever been part of,” he says. “We're all having so much fun together.”
Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.