Trinity Rep’s current production of Boeing-Boeing, directed by Fred Sullivan, Jr., is a big, broad, physical, Technicolor comedy – and it is funny as hell.
Written by Marc Camoletti and translated by Beverley Cross & Francis Evans, Boeing-Boeing is set in the heyday of the jet age and peeks into the enviable life of Bernard (Joe Wilson, Jr.), an American ex-pat playboy/architect who lives in a posh, modern, Paris apartment. (We have to take it on faith that Bernard is an architect…the fact that he is a playboy is undisputed.)
Bernard juggles three fiancées – one American, one French and one Italian – all air hostesses and all convinced that Bernard is faithful to them, alone. As he explains to his old friend Robert (Stephen Thorne), who is visiting from Wisconsin, life has been smooth sailing thanks to careful study of airline timetables and his efficient, and discreet, housekeeper, Bertha (Nance Williamson).
Deception detours into disaster, as faster planes make for shorter trips and Bernard quickly loses the ability to manage his ménage’.
Sullivan has created exactly the right tone and energy for the production. Every color, every gesture, every piece of furniture, every line is wildly amplified as compared to real life. The feel of the production is so cohesive, so tight, that one can easily give themselves over to the silliness.
The six-member cast is delightful.
Joe Wilson, Jr. is a smooth as silk as Bernard. Stephen Thorne does a fine job ramping up Robert’s frenetic energy.
The trio of air hostess/fiancés, Rebecca Gibel as Gloria, Liz Morgan as Gabrielle, and Amanda Dolan as Gretchen, are obvious 60’s stereotypes, but the actresses bring just enough realism to the roles to help the audience accept them as people (as opposed to characters).
The role of Bertha, Bernard’s efficient, if existential, maid, played in this production by Nance Williamson, is cleverly written and developed. It is hard to know how much of the role is on the page; with Williamson consistently surprising and amusing the audience. Williamson chews scenery, demands your attention and delivers lines in wickedly unexpected ways (reminding me of Sullivan himself). Williamson is an unexpected comic powerhouse in this performance and I loved it.
Tickets for Boeing-Boeing, which plays through May 13, 2012, range from $22 - $66 and can be purchased at the Trinity Rep Box Office, which is located at 201 Washington St., Providence, RI; by phone at (401) 351-4242; and online at www.trinityrep.com.
Photo: (L to R) (standing) Brown/Trinity Rep ’13 student Amanda Dolan, guest artist Rebecca Gibel and (foreground) Brown/Trinity Rep ’13 Liz Morgan. Photo by Mark Turek.