Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Boeing Boeing clears stewardess' uniforms for take-off

Posted By on Tue, May 11, 2010 at 2:17 PM

click to enlarge HERE TO SERVE: Janet (Megan Hayes, left), Judith (Courtney Patterson) and Jacqueline (Cheri Christian)
  • HERE TO SERVE: Janet (Megan Hayes, left), Judith (Courtney Patterson) and Jacqueline (Cheri Christian)

Aurora Theatre’s breezy sex farce Boeing Boeing presents a genial fantasy of romance and reconciliation that scarcely touches down for real-world practicalities. In a production cheerfully divorced from reality, nothing proves as fanciful as its coffee-tea-or-me? vision of air travel.

Boeing Boeing takes place in a mod Parisian apartment in the early 1960s, but relies on a notion of airline flight that’s as luxurious and nostalgic as sipping champagne on the Orient Express. Boeing Boeing harks back to a time when security checkpoints and baggage fees were unimaginable, delays unthinkable, and stewardesses completely uninhibited. Compared to the drudgery of contemporary air commuting, Boeing Boeing’s sentiment that “Air travel is becoming more efficient" seems practically topsy-turvy.

Faster engine thrust provides the crux of the comedy. French architect Bernard (Joe Knezevich) has used Paris' Orly airport and his book of airline flight schedules (yes, a book) to stock his home with air hostesses. Different airlines employ each girlfriend, who lives with Bernard for two days a week and knows nothing of the others’ existences: Southern belle Janet (Megan Hayes) flies TWA, French gamine Jacqueline (Cheri Christian) works for Air France, and German fräulein Judith (Courtney Patterson) swoops in on Lufthansa.

“All the advantages of a harem, right in the middle of Paris, without the trouble of being a Mohammedan,” brags Bernard to his old-school chum Robert (Andrew Benator). Bernard enlists his housekeeper (Nita Hardy) to maintain the deception that he’s a one-woman man by swapping out photos, decorations and menu items for each arrival. Even so, the premise is ridiculously unsustainable. How could Bernard’s three “fiancées” not notice evidence of each other’s habitation, such as changes of clothes?

Thanks to faster flight turnarounds, Bernard’s all-important schedule collapses and by the end of Act 1, all three women have returned to the apartment on the same night. Bernard drafts Robert to assist him, making Boeing Boeing the second local production in four months (with Theatre in the Square’s Caught in the Net) in which a geeky innocent enables the deceit of a polygamous pal.

Robert’s not merely a hapless nice guy, but something of a sly dog, willing to go behind Robert’s back, outrageously flirt with his fiancées, and contemplate the advantages of a deceitful arrangement. Boeing Boeing ultimately comes down against polygamous relationships, but it’s less interested in punishing Bernard and the “naughty” characters, preferring to slap their wrists. How very French of the play.

The cast’s accents can be spotty, but they’re likable, and Hayes, Christian and Patterson each portray a vivacious young woman with plenty of sex appeal and opportunities to wear negligees. As Judith, Patterson plays against national stereotypes as a passionate German pixie, although she’ll amusingly bark an irritated “Nein!” when provoked. All three work their respective stewardess uniforms (from costume designer Linda Patterson), which paradoxically convey subservience and independence at the same time.

Written by French playwright Marc Camoletti, Boeing Boeing is probably best known for the 1965 American film version with Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis (adapted by Beverly Cross, whose other scripting credits happen to include the original Clash of the Titans). Benator brings a welcome level of restraint in the Jerry Lewis role, and country bumpkin Robert frequently deadpans his reactions to Bernard’s disastrous romantic relationships. As if anticipating the free love movement of the late ’60s, Boeing Boeing contrives for Bernard to kiss several of the play’s female characters, celebrating the pleasures of the lip lock.

Directed by Susan Reid, Aurora’s Boeing Boeing delivers plenty of enjoyable frills, from the curtain speech in the form of a “message from your pilot” to the lightly choreographed go-go dancing at the final bows. It’s easy to imagine the Sterling Cooper’s creative team on “Mad Men” selling audiences of their era on Boeing Boeing’s idea of sex without strings attached and airline service without hassle. Boeing Boeing serves its audience a flight of fancy, as well as a fantasy of flight.

Boeing Boeing Through May 30. $16-$30. Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. Aurora Theatre, 128 E. Pike St., Lawrenceville. 678-226-6222. www.auroratheatre.com.

(Photo by Todd Fleeman)

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