Polyamory is key. Marc Camoletti’s production of “Boeing Boeing” taught its audience exactly the opposite with the chaos it presented in its rendition of the 1965 film.
Engaged to three highly desirable stewardesses, Bernard Lawrence, played by Richard Sloniker, is able to enjoy a life full of company and love, without the commitment of a wife. Based on his ability to closely follow several flight schedules and keep women separate, Bernard has discovered his key to success in love: polyamory.
Bernard has it all in his fancy flat. He is as close to a ‘60s playboy as it gets. His hip “international harem” is adorned with a bar/fish tank that emerges from the living room floor on cue. Additionally, Bernard has a strange system regarding the photographs in his household. Featured prominently on the mantle, Bernard has a large framed portrait of him with a woman that revolves to depict each of the three distinct women in his life at his side. Upon each of the women’s arrivals at his home, he utilizes a complex keypad system to change the various pictures out. A remote control music system, designed to set the mood for any situation with any particular suitor, adds a final touch to his bachelor pad.
Supporting characters, however, are what made the play thoroughly enjoyable. The first of such characters is Berthe, Bernard’s housemaid and fiancée itinerary manager. Berthe’s character dominates the play. With her thick French accent and under-the-breath comments, the audience was sent into fits of laughter whenever Berthe hinted at the absurdity of Bernard’s circumstances.
Robert—a friend of Bernard’s who has moved to Paris from Wisconsin and looks wildly out of place—is the perfect accompaniment to Berthe’s sidekick role. His nasally voice and inability to conceive of Bernard’s detestable behavior make his character appealing to the audience. In one scene—a scene that, in my opinion, was dragged out for eons too long—Robert struggles with a heavy suitcase. The moment sealed his likability for the audience, which was evidenced by the roaring laughter that ensued throughout the struggle. Mind you, the audience of a Sunday night performance may or may not be a slightly older generation. Regardless, the two characters maintained believable and hilarious chemistry through the play, as they helped Bernard juggle the three women at once.
The concept of three fiancées seemed flawless at first glance. The audience is first introduced to a vivacious and voluptuous American woman named Gloria. We first see Gloria chowing down on pancakes with ketchup. She is a confident character who exudes and exerts her power over the household until she is whisked away by Trans World Airlines.
After Gloria departs, Bernard is left with ample time to enjoy the company of his Italian stewardess, Gabriella, for a light lunch. Gabriella’s adoration for Bernard is more prominent on stage than the others’ and his reciprocation seems less fabricated than the artificial affection shown to his other mistresses. They putz around together in what appears to be a genuinely flirtatious manner until she too must leave on business.
The third lucky lady betrothed to our cheating protagonist is Gretchen the German. This character flaunts her native country, perpetually seized with passion for everything around her. Her character added a level of unadulterated humor to the play—without Gretchen the experience would not have been nearly as enjoyable.
So, Bernard has three amazing women. But naturally, disaster ensues.
The lives of the three eventually converge in a series of airline mishaps. When Gabriella is in Paris with Bernard, Gretchen discovers she will arrive early. Nearly simultaneously, Gloria learns that she will be returning early as well. The remainder of the play consists of Bernard, Berthe and Robert all attempting to resolve the conflict associated with the three arrivals. The end of the play is both unpredictable and laden with morals surrounding the positivity of having a single spouse in one’s life.
As the play progressed, it seemed like it would remain one-dimensional. However, laced among the humor and drama were sentiments surrounding the power of women and the woes of domestic service. In a particularly prominent passage, Gloria straps on a guitar and serenades Robert with a soliloquy relaying her thoughts regarding the true nature of the relationship between men and women.
The show essentially tore apart any preconceived notion of love I had prior to it only to build it back up in a slow, humorous and empowering way. Thankfully, it ended with the notion that true love only really exists between two people and this revelation is, ultimately, a huge success.
Emily may be reached at [email protected]