Regional Reviews: Seattle
A Buoyantly Airborne Boeing-Boeing Soars
Also see David's review of Rent
Bernard, a playboy architect based in Paris, lives in a huge apartment that is the last word in early 1960s pseudo-space age chic (the colorfully gaudy high-tech equipped set by Carey Wong is as much a star as any of the actors). He has a colorfully bombastic housekeeper named Berthe and a visiting best friend named Robert, both of whom become a part of a merry mix-up that occurs when vagaries of airline speeds and schedules plop three of Bernard's stewardess paramours circling the apartment at roughly the same time. The three ladies in question are no-nonsense Lufthansa lass Gretchen; Gabriella, a saucy Alitalia signorina; and Gloria, a lusty all-American firecracker. And that's about all you need to know in advance. Boeing-Boeing is as deep as a puddle, but thanks to Ms. Narver's rocket-powered pacing, choreographed action and ace casting, you get a smooth and satisfying flight of fancy.
Richard Nguyen Sloniker deftly handles the central role of Bernard, who in actuality is the straight man of the piece, but the actor never gets pushed into the background by his zanier cohorts. That is a feat in itself. Mark Bedard as Robert is a comic force to be reckoned with. With a pliancy of movement that recalls Dick Van Dyke at his zenith, unique vocal deliveries, and an overall manner reminiscent of great screwball comedy stars, Bedard dazzles and finds unique chemistry with each of he ladies he interacts with. Angela DiMarco is a spicy meatball of madcap fun as the quick tempered Gabriella, Bhama Roget is ridiculously entertaining as the over-sexed American Gloria, and Cheyenne Casebier gives a comedic master class in her perfectly calculated turn as one of the toughest and kinkiest German frauleins around. But a case must be made that Anne Allgood as Berthe is neck and neck with Bedard as the show stealer. Physically and vocally, Allgood creates a wisecracking, overwhelmed yet indomitable housekeeper that honors the great tradition of such Hollywood mainstays as Eve Arden and Thelma Ritter (Ritter coincidentally played Berthe in the botched Hollywood film version).
Costume designer Frances Kenny has a frolic with an array of '60s looks, and L.B. Morse contributes a masterful lighting design. Sound designer Robertson Witmer has chosen the perfect musical bites to capture the era, from "Come Fly With Me" to "Fly Me to the Moon." In every respect, Boeing-Boeing offers its audience a first class experience, except you need to buy your own champagne in the lobby at intermission.
Boeing-Boeing runs through May 19, 2013, at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer Street in Seattle Center. For ticket information and more go to www.seattlerep.org
- David Edward Hughes