Center REPertory Company's Boeing-Boeing is sexy, silly fun

Pat Craig
Contra Costa Times
February 2, 2011

Silliness, outside of state and federal government and the elections thereto, is a good thing.

Sexiness, outside of Entertainment Tonight and anything on TV with the Kardashian sisters or anybody from New Jersey, isn't bad either.

Ogling the opposite sex, in appropriate forums, of course, isn't really bad.

And placing all that in the Paris during 1962 -- the same year the Profumo Affair sex scandal was beginning to rock the British government and designer Rudy Gernreich was imagining the topless swimsuit just as millions of adolescent Americans were daydreaming of a sexual revolution -- was a stroke of genius.

Perhaps this is why Boeing-Boeing, Marc Camoletti's watershed '60s sex farce, is making a big comeback right now. It had a successful revival in London and New York and is beginning to spread out across the United States. It touched down in Walnut Creek on Tuesday night, playing with maximum silliness in a Center REPertory Company production at the Lesher Center.

Directed with door-slamming aplomb by Michael Butler, who is blessed with an astonishingly skilled cast of six, the farce plays beautifully on a Paris apartment set featuring op art wallpaper, a built-in reel-to-reel tape player and space-age furniture, some of it velvety white and none of it arranged in right angles.

It is the home of a prototypical American swinger, Bernard (Liam Vincent), who greets his best pal Robert (Alex Moggridge) with a sort of Playboy philosophy that might make Hugh Hefner blush.

So, here's the deal, Bernard tells Robert: He's living with and is engaged to three women. All of them are "flight hostesses" (possibly a bridge term between stewardess and in-cabin flight crew). Monitoring their flight schedule with pinpoint accuracy makes it possible for Bernard to enjoy the company of all three for a couple of days each. And none is the wiser, nudge, nudge.

While Gloria (Kelsey Venter) is off somewhere with TWA and Gabriella (Jessica Lynn Carroll) is flying the friendly skies of Alitalia, Gretchen (Jennifer Erdmann) is relaxing at the apartment between Lufthansa flights with good ol' Bernie. And just to make sure things run smoothly, Bertha (Lynda DiVito) is at the apartment to cook meals, arrange schedules and bring a chain-smoking Parisian ennui to the whole scheme.

The three flight hostesses adapt dialects representing the airlines they represent, adding not only some variety to the roles, but an enhanced humor. Moggridge gets the li'l buddy sort of role, and scores huge laughs, while Vincent is more of a straight man who plays the foundation upon which the scheme is built (and crumbles). DiVito is nothing short of hilarious in her role as Bertha.

The costumes by Victoria Livingston-Hall are spot on, as are the props from Christopher Kesel.


Robert Hurwitt
February 7, 2011

Love isn't exactly a revolving door for Parisian architect Bernard, despite his best efforts to set up a tight schedule. When their flight schedules change, and his three flight attendant fiancees start showing up at the same time, life in Bernard's chic apartment is more like a classic, seven-door French sex farce. Which is just what Marc Camoletti's Boeing-Boeing is, and a very successful one too.

By some accounts ("Guinness Book of Records") the world's most performed French play, Boeing was a smash hit in Paris in 1960 and then in London, where it ran for seven years. It flopped on Broadway at the time, but bounced back with very successful London and Broadway revivals in '07 and '08. Michael Butler's current Center Repertory Company production makes it clear why it works.

It's not just the laughs, which are plentiful, the titillation (minimal) or the clever reversals on the old Alec Guinness "Captain's Paradise" setup. It's also the lack of an old-fashioned snigger factor. At least in the popular English version by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans, the underlying attitudes reflect more contemporary ideas about multiple partners and female sexuality.

Besides, it's the most innocent character who comes out on top. Sort of. That would be Robert (Alex Moggridge), an unsophisticated American chum who shows up as Bernard (Liam Vincent) is packing his TWA fiancee Gloria (Kelsey Venter) off to Orly to make way for her Alitalia rival Gabriella (Jessica Lynn Carroll).

Robert's unexpected arrival provides the excuse for Bernard to explain his blissful setup, while his sardonic maid Bertha (Lynda DiVito) busies herself altering the color scheme and replacing girlfriend photos. It's going to be a busy day, with Gabriella popping in for a quick lunch-and-nooner between longer layovers for the departed Gloria and soon-to-arrive Lufthansa fiancee Gretchen (Jennifer Erdmann). None of the women knows about the others. Each thinks of the apartment as her happy home.

Vincent describes his harem in a manner as coolly fashionable as the sleek '60s Space Age contours and details of Erik Flatmo's architect's-digs flat. Moggridge's Robert responds with the wide-eyed, worried wonder of a sexual naif. When bad weather alters their schedules, though, it's Robert who has to figure out how to redirect the fiancees while Bernard loses his grip.

Carefully contrived mayhem ensues. Broad accents, deft slapstick, lingerie bits, the sharply timed use of those doors (three of which lead to bedrooms) and some culinary crimes (Gloria takes her pancakes with ketchup) add to the fun. It's all pretty light and, yes, contrived, but it thrives on some unexpected revelations, very nicely handled by Erdmann's athletic Gretchen and Venter's hungry Southern belle.

Happy endings are in store for just about everybody, as well, which is difficult considering the math. Robert makes out beyond his wildest dreams, though DiVito's dyspeptic Bertha may come out best of all. If it's not a particularly memorable ride, Butler uses its turbulence to make it a pleasant flight.

Center REP's Boeing-Boeing Offers Laughs, Farcical Fun

Joint Forces Journal

Boeing-Boeing is the high-flying Tony Award winning comedy that has had Broadway audiences airborne with laughter. Now a positively superb CenterREP ensemble has audiences laughing out loud, in this light hearted, sexy production playing at the Dean Lesher Theatre in Walnut Creek through February 26th.

This production is a throwback to the early 1960s, with stagecraft appearing to be spot-on authentic, right to the wallpaper and “futuristic” furniture. Even the introduction to the show to the audience over the theatre’s loudspeaker, asking to turn off cell phones, etc., is in sync with the production as a stewardess might address the passengers aboard a Boeing jet. Very clever.

Living in a posh Park apartment with three flight attendant fiancées, Gloria, Gabriella and Gretchen (Kelsey Venter, Jessica Lynn Carroll, and Jennifer Erdmann), Bernard’s (Liam Vincent) life suddenly hits turbulence when they all change their fail-safe flight schedules and he must maintain the illusion that he is faithful to each one, with the help of his housekeeper Bertha (Lynda DiVito) and visiting long-time buddy Robert (Alex Moggridge).

Bernard believes he’s got the best of all worlds with the rotating group of stewardesses shuffling in and out of the apartment so that none is ever around at the same time as the others. Ideally! But when schedules shift, Bernard finds himself having a full house of stewardesses and having to rely on the chain-smoking (and hilarious) Bertha and pal Robert to help calm the waters. One can only imagine the chaos…and hilarity that ensues.

Directed by Michael Butler, everything clicks perfectly, from the accents of the stewardesses (Gloria is from the south, y’all, Gabriella is from Italy, and Grethcen is German) to the timing of all the entrances and exits.

Boeing-Boeing is a classic farce written by French playwright Marc Camoletti.

Center REPertory Company's Boeing-Boeing a high-flying comedy at Lesher

Larry Rosenberg
Piedmont Post

Nonstop entertainment is the order of the day in Center REPertory Company's current revival of Boeing-Boeing, a comedy that is the most performed French play in the world.

If sidesplitting humor is your cup of tea, Boeing-Boeing, now playing at the dean Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, is definitely a show to savor.

Written by Frenchman Marc Camoletti, Boeing-Boeing ran for 17 years in Paris before being adapted to an American film in 1965 starring Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis. A Broadway revival in 2008 earned it two Tony Awards.

The title sounds like someone bouncing on a trampoline, which describes the story line of this French farce consisting of Beoing jets taking off and landing at Paris' Orly Airport. But the story focuses on flight attendants taking off and landing, rather that the aircraft in which they spend part of their life.

American architect and self-described playboy Bernard, played wonderfully by Liam Vincent, lives in a posh Paris apartment. He is happily engaged to three flight attendants and confident in his ability to juggle airline timetables and his personal schedules with each fiance.

His lifestyle works until disrupted by Mother Nature. Some severe storms suddenly disrupt Bernard's precise scheduling and he has to work fast to avoid the finaces from meeting one another.

The flight attendants, not surprisingly, provide wonderful laughts in each of their scenes. Gloria, the American with TWA (Kelsey Venter), Gabriella the Italian with Alitalia (Jessica Lynn Carroll), and Gretchen the German who flies with Lufthansa (Jennifer Erdmann) are top-notch comediennes with a fine sense of timing.

Amid the juggling of schedules, an unexpected visitor shows up at Bernard's doorstep, Robert (Alex Moggridge), a naive former college buddy who finds himself in the middle of a modern definition of bachelorhood. Moggridge adds some spark to the production appearing thoroughly befuddled in a masterful performance. He is an actor with timing and comedic talent to burn.

Among the three flight attendants, Erdmann is a standout as the domineering German flight attendant wearing a massive blond wig and yellow mini skirt. She alone is worth the price of admission.

Lynda DiVito, who plays Bertha, the French maid, also is a show stopper as Bernard's cantakerous housekeeper with clear disdain of the philandering ways of her boss.

Costume designer Victoria Livingston-Hall and Scenic Designer Erik Flatmo are spot on with their recreation of Paris in the 1960's.

Strap Yourself In As Boeing-Boeing Takes Off at Center REP

Charlie Jarrett
Rossmoor News
February 11, 2011

Boeing-Boeing is a comedy based on a man living in a bigamist or polygamist type of relationship with several women at the same time. The story is not new, just different in that the man in this play is portrayed a stereotypical American playboy, Bernard (Liam Vincent), who is living a superbly orchestrated erogenous adventure with three beautiful women in his Paris flat. He has proposed to each of them and is enjoying a very intimate relationship with each of these lovely women, a Texas American by the name of Gloria (Kelsey Venter), a dark haired, dark eyed Italian, Gabriella (Jessica Lynn Carroll), and a tall blond German, Gretchen (Jennifer Erdmann). He perpetuates this deception under the guise of soon becoming their husband. Bernard just never quite finds the time (as he is so over worked and stressed out from his busy schedule) to find time for the actual marriage to take place. Not only is he engaged to three very sexy women, but they, all three of them, are airline stewardesses. Each woman believes in her heart that Bernard is the perfectly devoted fiancé, a man who not only massages their egos and wines and dines them while they are together, but who remains completely loyal to her while she is off flying the friendly skies for her employer. Bernard believes that as long as he can carefully monitor each hostess’s flight schedules, knowing exactly how and when they will return to their French airfields and his flat, that he can keep his rewarding deception going and keep his bed warm at the same time.

All appears copasetic, his deceptions running like a well oiled machine, when his former college classmate, Robert (Alex Moggridge), unexpectedly shows up at Bernard’s apartment for a friendly school chum visit. Bernard invites a wide-eyed and disbelieving Robert into his confidence and shares with him, knowledge of his ongoing relationships with the three ladies. An astonished Robert plays along with the escapade while he is invited to stay on with Bernard in his apartment.

This show becomes a riot fest very quickly, almost in the first 15 minutes. The United Airlines hostess, a beautiful southern belle, Gloria (who is in making a mid-day stopover in Paris), is introduced to Robert, who has been raised as a very conservative gentleman and doesn’t understand why or how, one man can juggle three relationships all at one time.

Concurrent with Robert’s arrival, Bernard is advised that the ladies are soon to be upgraded in their jobs and allowed to serve on the more powerful Boeing super jumbo jets that their companies have recently purchased. These new aircraft are bigger, better and FASTER! Meaning, they are possibly going o be able to cover greater ground sooner, and return home with less time in transit. Again, Bernard does not seem to be particularly alarmed or concerned, so long as he can still correctly juggle their travel routes and times, as dictated by their company’s time tables. Just when Bernard is confident that absolutely nothing will go wrong, everything does begin to go wrong - - - go wrong - - - go wrong! Bad weather causes delays and stopovers in Paris, and the normal flying schedules become much more complicated and more tightly overlapping. Things may be going wrong for Bernard, but for his friend Robert and those of us who enjoy great comedy, everything is about to go right, or should I say, go great!

This tightly wrapped comedy is, outrageously funny, physically demanding and overtly sexual. Director Michael Butler has scored another high mark in regional theatrical direction with this master piece of just plain dumb fun! The acting is simply superlative in all characters, but I have to say that Alex Moggridge and Jennifer Erdmann, are unique in their characterizations, absolute gems. The 1960’s set designed by Erik Flatmo is pluperfect and contributes significantly to the overall production! The perfect period costumes by Victoria Livingston-Hall are equally pleasing.

This type of high energy slam bang boisterous comedy may not be the choice of everyone, but wife and I loved every minute of it, in fact, if I had the time, I would definitely go back and see it again. It is a mad-cap merry-go-round that revolves so rapidly, it is almost impossible to grasp the brass ring. It is reminiscent of many similar British comedies that we have seen over the years that have lots of doors opening, closing, slamming and banging, clothes coming on and going off, keeping you on the precarious edge of your seat, waiting for the next clever surprise.