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Theater Review: Well Crafted Farce Keeps The Laughs Flying At TheatreWorks

Photo: Richard Pettibone

James Hipp and Matt Austin in a scene from TheatreWorks New Milford’s perfect example of how farce should be done. 

NEW MILFORD — Boeing Boeing is a six door farce by the late Marc Camoletti, a French architect turned playwright who was an admirer of both Molière and American screwball comedies. The title is a pun, in that when you hear it, you think of something bouncing back and forth — boing boing fashion — which is fitting for the type of play in which Bernard, the philandering main character, is trying to juggle three separate romantic entanglements, only to have them collide when the wrong fiancée shows up for dinner, while another one is taking a shower.

You’ll note, however, that the word is spelled with an “e” as in Boeing Jets, because Bernard’s special shtick is that he only dates international flight attendants, who fly three different routes for three different airlines. Because he possesses a master schedule of all the flights that come through Paris (Bernard is an expatriate American architect with a six-door flat near Orly), and because he keeps precise notes in his datebook of their arrival and departure times, he blithely imagines that he can keep his three fiancées safely unaware of each other’s existence, while he enjoys infinite variety without the responsibility of serious commitment.

He does all this with the reluctant connivance of his housekeeper, Berthe, who cooks meals tailored to each national cuisine, and grudgingly changes the photos on the wall, according to who is expected for dinner. But when timid Robert from Wisconsin — Bernard’s old college roommate — drops by for a visit, things start to go disastrously wrong. The new Boeing jets come and go a lot faster than the schedule promised…

This show, currently in production at TheatreWorks New Milford, is Joe Russo’s baby. Not only does he direct, but he also designed the set, the costumes and the wigs, and in so doing he has made the most of his material.

The set — Bernard’s apartment — makes striking use of the three primary color and abstract shapes, bringing to mind a Calder mobile or a painting by Arp. This is reinforced by the uniforms of the three flight attendants. Gloria, who flies for Pan Am, wears tomato red; Gabriella, who works for Air Italia, dresses in blue, and Gretchen, from Lufthansa, is bright yellow.

Russo guides his cast with perfect timing, as Robert and Berthe frantically try to keep the women hidden in separate rooms, while Bernard begins to have a nervous breakdown, and the audience doubles over with laughter.

In real life, Jody Bayer, who plays Berthe, and Matt Austin, who plays Robert, are actually mother and son, and the chemistry between them is delightful to watch. I’ve seen them both separately in other productions, but never as good, or as funny, as they are here.

As the formidable Gretchen (who seems more dominatrix than air hostess), Vicki Sosbe is both terrifying, and alluring, to Robert. As the voluble and excitable Italian, Gabriella, Ressa Roccapriore shows mercurial charm, while Erin Shaughnessy as the American, Gloria, has a couple of tricks up her own sleeve.

James Hipp morphs from suave to unsettled to positively panicked as Bernard. For the most part he does that very well, until he gets his unexpected comeuppance and learns his lesson!

On the whole, Boeing Boeing makes for a fast paced, enjoyable evening. If you like farce, then this is a choice example of the genre, beautifully crafted and polished.

(Performances continue Friday and Saturday evenings at 8, and Sunday, December 15, at 2 pm, until January 4. Tickets for all shows are $23, reserved seating.

Thursday, December 12, is this production’s Pay-What-You-Want night: attendees name their ticket price. Curtain is at 8.

Also, the company will offer a gala fundraising New Year’s Eve performance on Tuesday, December 31, also with an 8 pm curtain. There will be hors d’oeuvres and an open bar of wine, beer and soft drinks. Tickets are $75.

Reservations can be made online at www.TheatreWorks.us or by calling the box office at 860-350-6863. The theater is at 5 Brookside Avenue, just off Route 202 in New Milford.)

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