You can do a lot of things for Valentine’s Day. You can go to a super crowded restaurant with your significant other and gaze desperately into their eyes, questioning whether your love is strong enough to last. You can stay home, make a frozen pizza, and watch a comedy film before bed. Personally, I have therapy and work planned for my day of romance. But no matter what your love life may be, chances are it’s not as hectic as the ones featured in Boeing Boeing.
Boeing Boeing is a classic French farce that is currently enjoying a nice long run at the CLO Cabaret theater. The play opens in a posh and neutral-colored apartment in France. It is home to Bernard (Tony Bingham), a businessman with not one, not two, but THREE fiancées. All of his ladies are flight hostesses (they were called that back then, you know) for different airlines. Through some intense scheduling, planning, and a lot of stamina, Bernard is able to juggle his relationships with all three women, although his way of life exhausts his devoted maid Berthe (Elizabeth Ruelas).
Complications arise when Bernard’s friend Robert (Connor McCanlus) drops in for an extended visit, and becomes an element of Bernard’s unorthodox lifestyle. At the same time, a new engine system or something (it’s tech talk) is put in to all airplanes, shortening travel times drastically. Over the course of one day, all the woman come “home” and Robert, Bernard, and Berthe find themselves frantically running around trying to keep all the hostesses a secret from each other.Boeing is a pretty basic farce, relying on a lot of “near-miss” humor and characters who are emotionally over-the-top. The show itself is a bit dated and it’s very easy to guess what will happen next. Unless of course you’re the couple sitting behind me, who would gasp as if to say “What are the odds SHE showed up?!?” all evening. For Boeing to really work on stage everyone in the production has to shine, and thankfully the CLO team rose to the occasion.
Although Bernard is the center of this love square, it’s Robert who is the leading man here and is played with a wonderful crazed energy by Mr. McCanlus. Starting off as meek and almost flat, the performance builds and then explodes onstage as Robert struggles to hide his friend’s secrets while also trying not to fall in love himself. Countering him is Ms. Ruelas as Berthe, who tends to have a more dry and exhausted demeanor. Each new problem that arises is a new sucker punch to her soul, and Ruelas grabs every comedic moment out of it.
The three ladies are also lovely. Amanda Pulcini has fun as American Gloria, especially in Act Two when the character is allowed to be more bizarre. Kelly Trumbull is perhaps the most “straight-laced” as Italian Gabriella, whose humor derives from her facial reactions and emotional screaming sessions at the rattled kooks around her. Lisa Ann Goldsmith is another force of energy as the German Gretchen, who makes an over exaggerated entrance and quickly owns the stage. Everyone has a firm grasp of what just works well in this camp comedy.
Everything in a farce needs to have a hugeness to it. Tony Ferrieri’s set is tall, sparse, and has the required many doors that farces tend to demand. The accents of the women are thick to match the large personalities they have (that same couple behind me would repeat every. single. word. that was said in an accent all night. You’d think they would have gotten use to it by Act Two.) The characters are big, silly, and cartoonish for good reason: if we were expected to take this seriously, Bernared would certainly be very hated. But Mr. Bingham plays him with a bit of charm, a bit of sleaze, and beautifully lets loose when his lifestyle starts to crumble.
Who cares if you’re single on Valentine’s Day? There are worse things. You could have three partners on the down low and spend every day running around trying to keep them secret. Doesn’t that sound freaking exhausting? Luckily the cast and crew at the CLO Cabaret have more stamina than me, and are putting on a fabulous production. I’d recommend seeing Boeing Boeing. Take a date. Take a friend. Or just go yourself, who cares? Love is all around us. And in Boeing Boeing love is…(wait for it)…in the air. I wonder how many productions have used that as a tag for the show? Probably a lot.
Directed by Van Kaplan
Written by Marc Comoletti, Translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans
Designed by Tony Ferrieri (scenery), Scott Nelson (lighting)
Starring Amanda Pulcini (Gloria), Tony Bingham (Bernard), Elizabeth Ruelas (Berthe), Connor McCanlus (Robert), Kelly Trumbull (Gabriella), Lisa Ann Goldsmith (Gretchen), Michael Fuller (understudy), Julia Geisler (understudy)
The shows runs at the Cabaret Theater until April 26th. Tickets can be purchased here.
Special thanks to the Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret for complimentary press tickets.
Performance Date: Thursday, February 12, 2015