Farce is a caricature of comedy. That is the approach that director Cory Doran takes in the production of Marc Camoletti’s classic farce Boeing Boeing at the Hart House Theatre and it works.
The set by designer Brandon Kleiman has a bar in the middle, seating area on the right and (most important) seven doors. That is an essential and probably minimal requirement for a good farce.
Katie Corbridge as Gabriella, Brandon Gillespie as Bernard, Andrei Preda as Robert,
Shalyn McFaul as Gretchen. Photo Scott Gorman
And now the plot. Bernard is living the life that many men dream about. He has a nice apartment in Paris and is engaged to three gorgeous stewardesses who work for different airlines. They are now called air hostesses (the stewardesses, not the airlines) and should give you a clue about the decade in which the action takes place. The play was first staged in 1962.
Back to the stewardesses. They have different but precise schedules so that Bernard and his maid Berthe can entertain each one of them at different times. Berthe changes sheets and photos and Bernard has the time of his life.
Enter the Boeing Corporation with faster jets bringing havoc in the ladies’ schedules and mayhem into Bernard’s life. Who would have thought that first two and then three fiancées would end up in Bernard’s apartment at the same time. An added twist is the presence of Robert, Bernard’s school friend from Wisconsin who drops in for a visit.
Brandon Gillespie as Bernard has to do the requisite running around, overacting and overreacting as his dream world starts unravelling. Farce is based partly on the characters being quite thick and not getting much, including the most obvious, of what is going on around them. Gillsepie qualifies on all counts. We want farce not intuitive intelligence. Gillespie is dressed in a three-piece suit and horn-rimmed glasses which do not appear to be very becoming for such a successful Lothario.
Eliza Martin as Gloria, Jill McMillan as Berthe, Andrei Preda as Robert. Photo Scott Gorman
Eliza Martin plays Gloria, the stewardess from New York who works for TWA – that was an American airline for those under 60. Like the other women, she works with an awful accent, looks good and wears chic and sexy clothes with a relatively only bad wig.
Katie Corbridge works for Alitalia and is dressed in dark green and acts like a passionate Italian stewardess. I have never met one but I want all Italian stewardesses to be like Gloria even if they speak with a terrible accent. Her wig is really bad.
Meet Gretchen, the stewardess from Lufthansa played by Shalyn McFaul. She is of Wagnerian dimensions with an industrial-sized chest and a wig to house refugees. Gretchen sets the standard for national defamation with an accent that is comprehensible in reverse proportion to her success in achieving it.
Jill McMillan as the maid Berthe overacts with a French accent. To be clear “overacts” in the context of a farce means doing exactly what you are supposed to.
The new element in this ménage á quatre is Robert, an innocent abroad who arrives in Paris from Wisconsin. Andrei Preda does the best job of all and gets more laughs than anyone in the production. This is perhaps because the role is different form the others but that takes nothing from Preda’s comic talents, his ability with physical humour from pratfalls to hilarious reactions. Simply hilarious.
Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti continues until March 5, 2016 at Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto, Ontario. www.harthousetheatre.ca Telephone (416) 978-8849