Friday, May 9, 2008


The 2007-08 theatre season is winding down. Shows like this one make me glad. It will be nice to have some time off from sitting through such drudgery.

The biggest problem is the length -- two and a half hours for a predictable farce that should have come in under two, with no intermission.

The plot could have made for a fun evening. Bernard, overplayed by Bradley Whitford, is an American architect living in Paris and juggling relationships with three airline hostess fiancĂ©es (this is the 60s, before they were called flight attendants) who fly in and out of the city and his apartment. Christine Baranski is a riot as Berthe, Bernard’s wry maid who helps him balance all the comings and goings, while also catering to the culinary tastes of the various women -- an American, an Italian and a German.

What made the evening so tedious is the overacting. Director Matthew Warchus has people writhing and wiggling around on the floor -- alone -- pounding furniture and being far more annoying than funny. I kept glancing at the watch on a man in front on me, trying to see how much more I had to endure.

Mark Rylance is funny as Bernard’s old school friend visiting from Wisconsin, but after a while he also goes overboard. Only Baranski is just right. She was the main reason I stuck around.

With tighter direction this play might have been worth reviving. It’s by French playwright Marc Camoletti, who died in 2003, and was translated by Beverley Cross more than 40 years ago for a smash London run. (Francis Evans shares translation credit with Cross for this revival.)

Warchus directed the recent Olivier Award-nominated West End hit revival of the play, in which Rylance also starred. This Broadway version has received a Drama Desk nomination for best revival of a play, but it won’t be getting my vote.

I did like Rob Howell’s 60-inspired scenic and costume designs and Hugh Vanstone’s lighting.

Boeing-Boeing originally opened in London in the early '60s and held the world record for the longest-running comedy in the West End, playing over 2,000 performances. It transferred to Broadway for a brief 23-performance run in 1965, but went on to be widely produced at regional and dinner theatres around the country. John Rich directed the film version starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis.

One interesting aspect of this production for me is that the first time I ever saw Christine Baranski on stage was at Baltimore’s CENTERSTAGE in 1976; she would go on to be a resident member there. She was playing a maid, Doreen in Tartuffe. Then, as now, she was appearing in a newly renovated theatre. CENTERSTAGE had just opened at its present location, a former boys’ school that had been converted after the previous theatre had been destroyed by arson. Tartuffe was the first production in the new space. Similarly Boeing-Boeing is the first play in the Longacre Theatre after its $12 million renovation. Christine is once again playing a maid -- and this time she’s stealing the show.

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