They say that timing is everything. If this is the rule for performing comedy, it is dogma for those wishing to dabble in the art of farce. Although physical humor is often important, the laughs with farce generally rely on split-second timing – one door opening just as another closes, an incriminating photograph stuffed behind a curtain seconds before it’s discovered, or a woman’s intimate apparel being claimed by a man to conceal the presence of one woman from another.
The improbability of the plot is beside the point. The joy comes in watching it unfold so quickly that one’s sense of disbelief never engages. That’s why farce is not an easy thing to pull off, and why congratulations are owed to The Hilberry Theatre, which successfully opened its 52nd season with the popular ‘60s-era farce, “Boeing Boeing” by Mark Camoletti.” For this production, the Hilberry welcomed guest director Lenny Banovez, co-founder and artistic director of New York City’s TITAN Theatre Company. Banovez totally embraces the delights and disciplines of farce – and the proof is in the performance.
Like all good farces, this one starts with a dubious situation – three attractive women are all engaged to the same swinging ‘60s bachelor, Bernard and take turns living in “their” Paris apartment. Of course, none of the women knows about the others. Because all three are airline attendants, but for different international lines, their beau Bernard is able to juggle schedules based on a strict timetable. When Bernard’s old friend Robert from Wisconsin shows up, Bernard boasts that the system is infallibly pure and mathematical. What could go wrong?
That’s fate’s cue. When a major storm causes international flights to be cancelled, delayed and rerouted, Gloria from TWA, Gabriella from Alitalia and Gretchen from Lufthansa are all Paris bound. Robert, along with Bernard’s trusted if overwrought butler Bert, do their best to juggle the fiancées, but they are clearly playing with nitroglycerin. This is great fun for the audience, as it keeps everyone on the edge of their seats, waiting for the whole thing to go “boom.”
This terrific, hard-working Hilberry cast includes: Brandon Grantz as the sexy, over-confident Bernard; Brandy Joe Plambeck as the mild-mannered, Midwestern Robert who discovers his inner Don Juan; Bevin Bell-Hall as Gretchen, who has perfect comic instincts (and potential as a German dominatrix); Annie Keris as the hot-blooded but nurturing Italian, Gabriella; Sarah Hawkins Moan as the fickle American, Gloria; and Miles Boucher as the long-suffering, long-winded butler, Bert.
The production company includes: Lenny Banovez (Director), Courtney Rasor (Stage Manager), Ryan Jones (Asst. Stage Manager), Michael Sabourin (Scenic Design), John Woodland (Costume Designer), Anne Suchyta (Asst. Costume Design), Tom Schraeder (Lighting Design), Brian Dambacher (Technical Director), Heather DeFauw (Sound Designer), Stephanie Baugher (Properties Master), and Stephanie Slusser (Publicist).
Be sure to catch this high-flying French farce, which runs through October 4, 2014. Shows are at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a matinee on Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets for “Boeing Boeing” range from $10–$30 and are available by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2972, purchasing them online, or by visiting the theatre box office. The Hilberry Theater is located at 4743 Cass Avenue, at Hancock Street, on the campus of Wayne State University.
You may also want to mark your calendars now for the balance of The Hilberry’s promising 2014-15 Season. Next up is William Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy “Romeo & Juliet” (October 24-December 13); an evening of one-act comedies from renowned playwright David Ives with “All in the Timing” (November 21-January 31); “The Way of the World,” William Congreve’s mockery of the upper-class (January 16-March 7); and Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama “An Enemy of the People” (February 20-March 28) playing in repertory. The season will close with Patrick Barlow’s hilarious spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” (April 10-25).