Fasten your seatbelts…it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Some theatre is aimed at starting intellectual discourse and delving into complex societal issues…but not this show. Theatre South Carolina’s Boeing-Boeing is a high-flying farce from the swinging sixties. The decade isn’t the only thing that’s swinging. Meet Bernard. He has a bit of a thing for airline hostesses….three of them! A connoisseur of international relations, he is engaged to a feisty American named Gloria, a sassy Italian named Gabriella, and an extremely romantic German named Gretchen. Bernard has taken a Pan Am approach to polygamy by only dating stewardesses with conflicting flight schedules, using his book of airline timetables as his handy guide.
Of course none of his fiancées know about his philandering ways. When the new Boeings are introduced as commercial aircrafts, layovers and flight times are reduced, leaving Bernard scrambling to keep his constantly rotating mini-harem under wraps.
Luckily, Bernard is not alone. His saucy/exhausted maid, Berthe and his socially awkward college chum Robert do their best to help him hide his three little secrets…but will they be able to keep up the ruse before they collapse from exhaustion?
Boeing-Boeing is no comedy masterpiece, but it is a very fun farce. It was originally written for French audiences by Marc Camoletti, and later adapted for the London stage in 1962 (where it ran for seven years) by Beverly Cross. In 1991, Boeing-Boeing was listed as the most performed French play in the world. It even had recent Broadway revival in 2008, garnering a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.
This a solid, even if formulaic, buddy comedy. You’ve seen this type of duo in dozens of movies before. Bernard is the handsome and charming ladies’ man, while Robert is his clumsy wisecracking sidekick. Trey Hobbs plays Bernard well, although it’s a rather one-dimensional character. Josiah Laubenstein gets to have much more fun with the role of Robert, who gets some of the funniest lines and best bits of physical comedy in the show. Josiah’s performance is reminiscent of Jerry Lewis (which makes sense—Boeing-Boeing was made into a film in 1965 starring Lewis and Tony Curtis). He’s charming, flirtatious, and likeable. By the end of the show, you’ll want to hang out with Robert for a drink or two…but you won’t want to leave him alone with your girlfriend.
Let’s not forget the intensely well-traveled ladies of the show! Melissa Peters plays Gloria, the American with an accent and an appetite as large as the state of Texas. Kate Dzvonik plays the domineering Italian who’s ready to settle down already, and Laurie Roberts steals the show as Gretchen, the hilariously aggressive German. Bernard’s overemployed maid Berthe, played by Leeanna Rubin, does her best to keep the whole scheme together, but is most certainly not pleased about it. It would be easy for a feminist to be offended by this show, as all of the women fall into ridiculous sexual stereotypes with absurd accents—but this is a farce. Such things are to be expected. Keep in mind the fellas end up being pretty ridiculous themselves.
All of the action takes place in Bernard’s swanky two-story flat. When I first saw the set (designed by Meredith Paysinger), I immediately wanted to ask how much it would cost to rent it as my new dwelling. It’s fabulous and perfect for the period. The costumes (by Caitlin Moraska) are simple and fun. The air hostesses each have their own unique and very form-flattering uniform, and the gents look nice and snappy. USC has amazingly consistent high-quality sets, costumes, and lighting. This show is no exception.
If you’re in the mood for a silly bit of escapism, Boeing-Boeing is what you’re looking for. If not, don’t worry—King Lear is coming to USC in April. Tragedy tomorrow…comedy tonight!
~ Jillian Owens
Boeing-Boeing, directed by Richard Jennings, runs through March 2 at Longstreet Theatre. Show times are 8 pm Wednesdays-Fridays, 7 pm Saturdays and 3 pm on the first Sunday. There is an additional half-price late night performance on Saturday, March 2 at 11pm. Tickets for the production are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military personnel and seniors 60+, and $18 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased by calling 803-777-2551 or by visiting the Longstreet Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Friday, 12:30 pm-5:30 pm.