It’s the sordid story of Bernard (Dustin Charles), an American expatriate living in Paris in 1959. Bernard believes he has found the ultimate solution to keeping relationships fresh - have more than one at the same time. To this end, he has managed to accumulate not one, not two, but three different fiancées, every one of them an “air hostess” (flight attendant to you and me).
You’ve got the overbearing American, Gloria (Christie Robinson). There’s the ebullient Italian, Gabriella (Brianne Beck). And finally, there’s the aggressive German, Gretchen (Jenny Hart). Through a deft juggling of airline timetables and the begrudging assistance of his maid Bertha (AJ Mooney), Bernard manages to ensure that only one of his ladies is in town at any one time.
Bernard’s old friend Robert (Dominick Varney) comes to town and proves to be quite titillated by Bernard’s grand girlfriend scheme. However, when scheduling conflicts and bad weather conspire to trap all three women in Paris at the same time, it is up to Robert and Bertha to help Bernard keep up appearances. Their results are mixed. And hilarious.
Charles brings a quirky suaveness to his portrayal of Bernard; he’s a man who has supreme confidence in his grasp on the world. Watching that confidence unravel leads to some wonderful moments. Robinson’s Gloria is street smart and world wise; she’s a woman who knows what she wants and is unafraid to pursue it. Gabriella is sweetly affectionate, if a touch naïve in some respects; Beck brings that relative innocence to life. And Hart brings an over-the-top energy to the confrontational Gretchen that makes for some hilarious interactions.
The glue that binds it all together comes in the persons of Bertha and Robert. Mooney is all low-key snark as the maid, conveying a world-weariness that serves a marked contrast to the franticness surrounding her. Her resigned “it’s a living” attitude is a perfect foil. Meanwhile, Varney is a ball of flailing, desperate energy. Varney amps it up as things spiral out of control, culminating in a whirling dervish of physicality careening about the stage trying desperately to save the day.
The level of timing required for a show such as “Boeing Boeing” to work is considerable. People have to be in a constant ebb and flow, entering and exiting at precisely the right times, for the illusion to be maintained. Happily, Newport and her cast have done a fine job finding that split-second timing. The result is almost a ballet, with specifically choreographed movements constantly flowing from one moment to the next. Of course, there aren’t too many ballets filled with door slamming, furniture-hurdling and 60s-style sexiness, but you get the point.
PTC regulars Lex Liang and Jonathan Spencer have done their usual exceptional work. Liang - who designed both set and costumes - has created a wonder snapshot of a bygone time. Bernard’s apartment is wonderfully period, with white walls, mod furniture and of course, half a dozen doors. His costume design is also a delight - the costumes afforded the three air hostesses are especially evocative. Spencer proves once again that his talents are wide-ranging; from spectacle to subtle, he can do it all. This design leans toward the latter; it warms the space while still allowing for the effects of the set design’s severity and accentuating the brightly colored costumes.
“Boeing Boeing” is just the sort of silly fare that might chase away those winter blues for a little while. It’s high-paced and sexy, full of laughter, love and more than a little lust. Check it out; you’ll never fly friendlier skies.
'Boeing Boeing' will be playing at the Bangor Opera House through Feb. 26. For tickets or more information, contact the box office at 942-3333 or visit the theatre’s website at penobscottheatre.org.