Both camps will find their preconceptions to be reinforced in the Old Globe's production of Boeing-Boeing, now playing through April 18 on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage.
Written by Marc Camoletti and Beverley Cross, Boeing-Boeing's plot is classic in its design. The story is set in the early 1960s trendy Paris apartment of Bernard (Rob Breckenridge; luscious modernist sets and costumes by Rob Howell). Bernard is bidding farewell to his fiancée, Gloria, (Liv Rooth) an international air hostess from New York. He is anxious to see Gloria depart, and soon we learn why: Bernard has two other air hostess fiancéesItalian Gabriella (Stephanie Fieger) and German Gretchen (Caralyn Kozlowski)and he is seeing each of them between flights on a carefully timed schedule.
Of course, the carefully timed schedule goes awry, first with the unexpected arrival of Robert (Joseph Urla), a friend of Bernard's from Wisconsin, and then last-minute flight snafus eventually land all of Bernard's fiancées/air hostesses in his apartment at once. Not even the storied organization talents of Bernard's housekeeper, Berthe (Nancy Robinette), can ultimately keep the three fiancées apart.
The Old Globe has called upon the talents of those who made this version of Boeing-Boeing a hit in both the West End and on Broadway. They are using British director Matthew Warchus' adaptation, which incorporated more of the original French version than did Mr. Cross' translation. They called upon Mr. Howell to re-create his scenic and costume designs, and hired Mark Schneider, Mr. Warchus' associate, as director. The cast, which includes several Old Globe veterans, was not associated with earlier productions, however, and its lack of experience turns out to be a liability.
Mr. Schneider has re-created much of Mr. Warchus' staging, and many of the visual gags are delightful. He's also got the timing of the entrances and exits down, though at a slower overall pace than might have been optimal (at just shy of three hours, this show's a long sit). The cast gives professional level performances at every turn (though, accents are thick and not always secure), but the pop and sparkle that usually drives farce was only fitfully present on opening night. Of the group, Ms. Robinette had the most fully developed performance, and even she looked somewhat embarrassed dancing in the long, dragged-out, curtain call.
Can San Diego audiences enjoy a piece of fluff that lightly spoofs the sexist and homophobic attitudes of the period, a la "Mad Men"? Well, audiences so adored Mr. Camoletti's sequel, Don't Dress for Dinner, at the North Coast Rep last season that the company brought the production back for a reprise engagement last summer. Had the Globe's production been sharper, I think audiences would embrace it. Because it isn't, however, I imagine that audience opinion will be split. And, despite my admiration for many of Boeing-Boeing's individual elements, my vote is with the nays.
The Old Globe presents Boeing-Boeing March 13 – April 18, 2010. Tickets ($29 - $77) available by calling (619) 23-GLOBE, or online at the Old Globe's website.
Boeing-Boeing by Marc Camoletti and Beverley Cross. Directed by Mark Schneider from the West End production by Matthew Warchus. Scenic and Costume Design by Rob Howell, Lighting Design by Chris Rynne, Sound Design by Paul Peterson, Original Sound Design by Simon Baker, Original Music by Claire van Kampen, Casting by Samantha Barrie, CSA, Stage Manager: Daniel S. Rosokoff. With Liv Rooth, Rob Breckenridge, Nancy Robinette, Joseph Urla, Stephanie Fieger, and Caralyn Kozlowski.