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Boeing03

Boeing Boeing (Santa Rosa)

“Farce” is defined as a type of comedy “that uses absurd and highly improbable events in the plot, where situations are humorous because of their ludicrous and often ridiculous nature.” “Boeing Boeing”, 6th Street Playhouse’s current production (running now through March 9th), is one of modern theatre’s best known farces. Written by French playwright Marc Camoletti in 1960, the English language version had a seven year run in London in the 60’s but lasted only 23 performances on Broadway in 1965. A Tony Curtis/Jerry Lewis film produced that same year was probably its best known incarnation until an award-winning Broadway revival in 2008. It’s the revival version that director Carl Jordan brings to the 6th Street stage.

Larry Williams as Robert *** Chris Sigrist as Bernard

Ellen Brooks as Bertha

The ludicrous and ridiculous plot is as follows: Bernard (Chris Sigrist), an American architect and “swinger” has devised a plan by which he can keep his Parisian penthouse stocked with voluptuous international airline hostesses. By careful planning, he can utilize the airline’s timetables to ensure that he always has one girl departing, one girl arriving, and one girl in the air at all times.  To satisfy his international cravings, he finds himself engaged to an American TWA hostess (Taylor Bartolucci), an Italian Alitalia hostess (Melissa Claire) and a German Lufthansa hostess (Julianne Lorenzen). His accomplice in managing this revolving harem is his maid, Bertha (Ellen Brooks), who manages to keep the house in order, the dinners in the appropriate cuisine, and the right pictures hanging at all times. Complicating things is the arrival of Bernard’s old college chum Robert (Larry Williams). Robert soon finds himself in the thick of things as bad weather and schedule changes steer all three girls toward a collision course. Hilarity will, of course, ensue.

Subtlety is not a hallmark of farce, and you won’t find it within twenty miles of this show. If the characters were played any broader, they would have to build an extension to the theatre. Sigrist does a good job playing the square-jawed, clean-cut American lech. Ellen Brooks seems to be channeling the Edna/Edith Head character from Pixar’s “The Incredibles” but earns laughs beyond the character’s appearance.  As the hostesses, all the actresses play their national stereotypes and characters for all their comedic value, though Bartolucci seemed to be overdoing it a bit, which is damn near impossible in a farce. Perhaps she felt the need to compensate for her character’s lack of an outrageous European accent. (It should be noted that those accents did make the dialogue occasionally unintelligible to some members of the audience.) Larry Williams is the comedic center of this production, from his Marge Gunderson “Fargo-like” accent, to his rubber-limbed physical comedy bits, to his wonderful facial reactions to the glorious chaos surrounding him. That being said, all contributed to the laughter emanating from the audience throughout the show.

Ellen Brooks * Melissa Claire * Chris Sigrist * Larry Williams

The set design by Phoenix Ritchie provided seven doors which could be slammed and combined with lighting design by Skylar Evans to conveniently transform the apartment to match its current occupant. Cleverly, the only acknowledgement of the geographic setting was a French phone and the only acknowledgement of the time period was a bean bag chair – a triumph of minimalism.

What wasn’t minimal was an unnecessarily long curtain call.  One would think it wouldn’t take too long for six actors to take their bows and clear the stage, but for some reason Jordan built a production number around the curtain call.  This confused the audience for a bit, leading to awkward stops and starts of applause.  It seemed somewhat gratuitous and an odd way to end the show.

Melissa Claire * Taylor Bartolucci * Julianne Lorenzen

In his “Director’s Notes”, Jordan states that of all the popular theatrical forms, farce is “one of the hardest to do successfully.” Based on this opening weekend’s audience reactions, and excluding the odd closing, he’s succeeded.  Simply put – Do you want to laugh? See this show.

Boeing Boeing

A 6th Street Playhouse Production

February 21st through March 16th

Evenings Thu, Fri, Sat @ 8:00pm    Matinees Sat & Sun @ 2pm

**Additional Performances Added   Sat, March 15th @ 8pm   Sun, March 16 @ 2pm

6th Street Playhouse
52 W. 6th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 523-4185

www.6thstreetplayhouse.com

Photos by Eric Chazankin

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