The lesson to be learned here is that you should never believe airline schedules.
Boeing-Boeing, the jet-fueled farce from the early 1960s that opened Friday at Theatre Arlington, introduces us to Bernard (Jonathan Flippo), an inveterate Parisian Lothario who is juggling three romances with a veritable United Nations of air hostesses.
There is the seemingly sweet American from TWA, Gloria (Sara Blair), who coos with a honey-drenched Southern accent. The fiery and passionate Gabriella (Taylor Staniforth) from Alitalia never holds anything back. And the forthright and demonstrative Gretchen (Jenna Anderson) maintains order and discipline on Lufthansa flights.
He is aided and abetted in these time-shifting affairs by his less-than-enthusiastic maid, Bertha (Kay Capasso), who scurries around his apartment to change the pictures and flags to match Bernard’s hostess du jour.
Bernard is able to pull off these international shenanigans by keeping a close eye on flight schedules. He always knows who is leaving, arriving or just taxiing on the runway.
But then a couple of things happen that throw a monkey wrench into Bernard’s well-oiled love machine. First, an old friend from his school days, Robert (Jerry Downey), shows up unexpectedly. Then (and much more significantly), Boeing announces the debut of a faster jet that is likely to cast Bernard’s carefully honed timetable into utter chaos.
The joy of this show is watching both Bernard and his plan unravel in spectacular fashion.
This production of this well-worn, swinging-’60s comedy (Jerry Lewis starred in a feature film version of this script in 1965) by French playwright Marc Camoletti succeeds because director Clyde Berry obviously understands that so well. He stresses the most farcical aspects of the play’s personality and punches them up with nicely executed physical humor.
Kudos to Berry and his players for the incredible sharpness of the show’s comic timing.
The best performances are flown in by Downey and Anderson. The former is incredibly consistent in every aspect of his characterization, from his accent (which, like Bernard’s, is British for some inexplicable reason) to the naturalness of his deliveries. That is extremely good news for this show because, although we are primarily watching Bernard go to pieces, it is Robert who must always guide our amazed gaze.
Anderson is about as subtle as a plate of brats and kraut, which is to say she is wonderful in her role. Her accent could use a bit of improvement, but she throws herself into the role so thoroughly that she will have you convinced that she was born in Berlin before the final curtain falls. Her scenes with Downey especially sparkle.
The rest of the cast is very solid, and all have some standout moments. Capasso has a rich part and exploits it thoroughly. And the other two air hostesses chew up almost as much scenery as does Anderson.
Only Flippo is a bit miscast. And what did they do to that poor guy’s hair?
Tony Curtis’ set has all the portals its needs (six, to be exact) for this door-slamming farce. But the set as a whole does not convey the time period or the play’s locale as well as it might, and is generally more crude than the highly polished work we have come to expect from this outstanding designer.
But, overall, Berry’s direction and most of the performances are so crisp and fun-loving that they completely neutralize the underlying meanness of this show (there is a lot of backstabbing in Bernard’s weaponless apartment) that can sometimes taint its comic intentions. This is very much a “wheels up” comedy.
▪ Through Feb. 1
▪ Theatre Arlington
305 W. Main St., Arlington
▪ 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
▪ 817-275-7661; www.theatrearlington.org