By Wendy Rosenfield
For the Inquirer
The flight for swingin’-‘60s farce Francais, Boeing Boeing--which had its English language premiere in 1962, and saw a subsequent film adaptation starring Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis--hasn’t exactly been nonstop, but in the last few years it’s sure picked up speed. The play’s most recent layover lands at Delaware Theatre Company, but it was preceded by a 2009 production at Ambler’s Act II Playhouse, and just before that, award-winning revivals on Broadway and the West End.
So, what makes this bachelor fantasy, with its carousel of international air hostesses, so right for right now? Perhaps the world’s macro-turbulence makes bachelor Bernard’s micro-turbulence so appealing. After all, what would you rather watch, CNN’s foreign desk, or a Paris-based swell and his nerdy Wisconsin pal juggling a trio of leggy German, Italian and U.S. stewardesses? Picked the latter? Perfect; you know where you can stow all that oversized baggage.
Director Steve Tague and costumer Kim Krumm Sorenson stick with primary colors here. The ladies are caricatures of their representative nations: Heidi-Marie Ferren’s German Gretchen, a Dietrich dominatrix in canary yellow; Sara Bruner’s Gloria twangs Texan in bright red; and Gisela Chipe stirs the pot as a hot-headed Italian in blue. The gentlemen, Jason O’Connell’s Bernard and Jeffrey C. Hawkins, as pratfalling, bowtied Robert, are increasingly, deliciously ridiculous.
Diminutive Sarah Doherty also reprises her Act II role as Bernard’s long-suffering maid Berthe. Aside from the fun in watching this lady-go-round make Bernard’s and Robert’s heads spin, it’s almost worth the ticket price to see relatively Amazonian (and hilarious) Ferren toss Doherty around like a beloved dress-up doll.
Stefanie Hansen’s sunken-living room in muted tones doesn’t swing quite as hard as its inhabitants, but it gets the job done, with bubble lights, chrome accents, an Eames-style seating arrangement and starburst knobs on all those slamming doors. And when those doors start moving, so does the production. This cast takes a while to wind up, but when,in the first of many laugh-out-loud moments (I won’t ruin it), the tension bursts, it goes full-throttle.
Surely there’s no shame in a quick getaway and soft landing;you have plenty of time to unpack the rest of that baggage upon your return.
Playing at: Delaware Theatre Company, 200 Water St.,Wilmington, Del. Through Sun., Feb. 10. Tickets: $35 to $39. Information: 302-594-1100 or www.DelawareTheatre.org.