French dramatist Marc Camoletti wrote this outrageous farce back in the early ’60s. It was translated into English and played London’s West End before it was made into a movie starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. It won a Tony Award when revived on Broadway in 2008.
This hilarious comedy requires perfect comic timing and could be murdered by many an amateur theatre company. The play needs a director like Fred Sullivan Jr., Rhode Island’s King of Comedy, and a talented ensemble cast headed by veterans Joe Wilson Jr. and Stephen Thorne. Sullivan has allowed Wilson and Thorne to let loose, act outrageously over the top and milk every situation for side-splitting laughs.
As the country song goes, this production is “more fun than a stack of comic books.” The plot is fairly simple and a forerunner of dozens of similar sex farces involving people running in and out of doors (There are seven doors in Patrick Lynch’s Wedgewood colored set.), experiencing close encounters and blurting out sexual innuendos.
Wilson plays Bernard, an American in Paris who has figured out a method to juggle three airline hostesses by checking out their flight schedules. Former Trinity actress Nance Williamson, who has gone on to do great work on and off Broadway, brings the house down as Bertha, Bernard’s German maid who keeps the house in order for his three female guests’ arrivals.
Once again, Trinity draws from its talented pool of Conservatory actors to play the three airline hostesses. Each thinking they are the only woman in Bernard’s life…and apartment. Graduate Rebecca Gibel and students Liz Morgan and Amanda Dolan all have their moments, cutting up the scenery and adding to the zaniness of the production.
The fun accelerates to new heights when Bernard’s old college roommate shows up at his door. Stephen Thorne gives the performance of his career as the naïve, unsophisticated, small town Wisconsinite Robert, who finds himself in the middle of Bernard’s charade and can’t quite adjust to the situation. Thorne’s comic timing and reactions to what is going on around him are priceless.
Comedy isn’t easy, but Thorne makes it look like a walk in the park. Watch his body language when Bernard is making out with Gloria, one of many scenes where he speaks not a word, but he has the audience laughing so loud that they wouldn’t hear him if he was talking.
My only problem with the play is its length. You can only laugh so loud and so long before you ache. Every line and every movement is hysterical, but some are carried out to extremes. But don’t let that stop you from seeing comedy done right. After three very serious, well-produced and performed plays in repertory, Artistic Director Curt Columbus wisely reaches for the funny bone.
It all comes down to the final scene, where everything comes together, people change (keep your eye on Thorne), and we all go home feeling a little silly. “Boeing-Boeing” is at Trinity’s Chace Theatre through May 13. For reservations call 351-4242.