Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Boeing Boeing—Twilight Theater—N. Portland

Love on the Fly

The comedy is written by Marc Camoletti and directed by Matt Gibson.  It is playing at their space at 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (just off Lombard), through September 24th.  Keep in mind it is neighborhood parking mostly but there is a small church lot across from the theatre that can be accessed.  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

I have to be honest with you, when I heard about this production, I remembered the movie from years ago with Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis as being sexist even then, and felt it would be even more “politically incorrect” now.  And I would be right, it would except for a couple of important details.  It is presented as a farce (broadly-drawn, exaggerated characters, full of improbable situations and self-mockery) not the typical situational comedy (realism with humor), and the female roles are very strong individuals, who actually get the upper hand by the end.  Thus, it works as this, and my objections to the script are put on the back burner.

It seems that Bernard (Rob Harris) is living the “life of Riley” in Paris during the 60’s.  He has hot and cold running Stewardesses (now called Flight Attendants) figured into his life style according to the flight schedules of different airlines (three ladies to be exact).  He’s engaged to every one of them and, of course, each is unaware of the other.  Of course, his outspoken, no-nonsense, French maid and cook, Berthe (Amanda Clark), has to keep everything straight from her end.

This all goes swimmingly, as the strong-minded, practical lady from America, Gloria (Megan Keathley), has a schedule that is in contrast to the passionate, hot-tempered one from Italy, Gabriella (Erin Bickler), which again, is in opposition from the schedule of the angry, bossy one from Germany, Gretchen (Jenny Newbry).  But then a couple of things happen that throw a monkey-wrench into the whole works.  Boeing develops a faster engine, which means that trips are now shorter, and his old school chum, Robert (Zero Feeney), stops by for a visit.

Robert is looking to settle down and get married.  His opposite, Bernard, has no intention of ever going down that blissful path.  And, of course, each of the ladies has their own agenda.  As you can see, this has little chance of turning out to be a smooth flight for anyone but, like Pandora’s proverbial box, the one remaining element left is Hope, which springs eternal, it is said, and therefore, has a way of gently nudging factions toward more positive solutions.  See it to find out the outcome.

The reason this is a cut above most comedies is not the plot but the absolutely marvelous physical comedy, maniacal expressions, pregnant pauses, rapid-fire delivery of lines and the tireless cast that has to perform in precision such crucial timing to make it all work.  Gibson has done an outstanding job of dealing with the comic timing and picking a cast that can deliver the goods.

Harris, cloning somewhat the physical gyrations of Dick Van Dyke, arms and legs akimbo, facial tics and building frustrations, are perfect for his character.  Feeney, patient and resilient, a “stranger in a strange land,” a John Goodman type is likewise effective in his befuddlement and seemingly utter ignorance of “what makes the world go round.”  All three of the “fly-girls” are very attractive and, quite honestly, rule the roost.  And, like the fellows, are very adept at comic timing.  My favorite, though, by a slight margin, is Clark as the maid.  The “wise clown,” as the Bard might say, the patient observer who has answers to questions nobody asks.  With her saucer eyes and straight-forward approach to situations, one would have thought one of the guys might have fallen for her (I would have) but such is the fate of observers, “always a brides-maid, never a bride.”

One comment about the accents, though, my friend, John, who came with me and I consider somewhat a linguistic expert, found them quite authentic.  But, we both agreed, there were times when you couldn’t understand them, not a matter of volume but of enunciation.  Authenticity may be important but not at the expense of losing words.  It didn’t happen a lot but enough that it was noticeable.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.