“Boeing-Boeing” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ August 29, 2011


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

The dated comedy, “Boeing-Boeing,” is certainly predictable with no real surprises and few genuine laughs as Phoenix Theatre’s season opener.  The Marc Camoletti farce is reputed to be the most performed French play.  As adapted in 1962 by Beverly Cross, its successful London premiere was followed by a disastrous 1965 Broadway debut.  Recently revived in London, that version played to middling Broadway success in 2008.  Maybe the French farce doesn’t translate well because what’s on stage at PT lacks any comedic punch.

Set in an upscale French apartment, bachelor playboy Bernard plays the field with three flight attendants who work for different airlines.  Armed with a master airline schedule, he established these relationships and he keeps them from running into each other until unpredictable scheduling adjustments and weather changes cause the inevitable.  With the flighty assistance of Robert, Bernard almost succeeds in keeping spicy Italian Gabriella, bland American Gloria, and abrupt German Gretchen from running into each other in a draggy door-slamming frenzy.  When the women discover each other, the results trap the two men.  There’s nothing funny or clever about this predictable drivel.

The by-the-book humor is such that you anticipate the plot’s few uninteresting twists and turns and you’ll actually be able to figure out the inane dialogue and frail jokes almost verbatim.  Good theater should be interesting, not predictable, and the paper thin characters never develop any dimension.  The characters are the same dullards that appear the first time you meet each one.  Director Robert Kolby Harper’s staging adds no comedic punches or laughter to brighten this dimwitted play.

The six-person cast tries hard to make these bland characters and inane comedy spark but only the gifted Sally Jo Bannow makes the confused and bewildered maid, Bertha, really funny.  What laughs there are in PT’s “Boeing-Boeing” come from Bannow’s frenzied looks, glances, and delicious readings of the banal jokes.  Bannow’s an expert comedienne.

Dion Johnson attempts to be dashing and debonair as Bernard and, while he has moments, this lecherous louse doesn’t glow comically.  Pasha Yamotahari is mousey as Robert the friend who enables much of Bernard’s mayhem and deception.

That leaves the ladies who play the flight attendants.  Each presents a stereotypical type that may have played acceptably when the show premiered but seems ridiculously condescending today.  Ashley Stults is a gigglely American, Shannon Whirry is a clipped German, and Heth’r Brady is a slippery Italian.  These impersonations haven’t an ounce of originality or uniqueness.

“Boeing-Boeing” isn’t seen much today because it’s a dreadful play from a different world with no contemporary comic sparkle.  It continues through September 11.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: D