TheatreSquared’s sixth season takes off with Marc Camoletti’s Boeing-Boeing, a jet-packed tour-de-farce that soars to ridiculous heights. With this purely high-altitude cast, chances are good you’ll be struggling to catch your breath. The comedy is both physical and felt in this mod-style 60’s revival romp. The performance, though absurd, is remarkably disarming for what amounts to such a simple schtick. You’ll definitely want to keep those seatbelts fastened, as the director’s aim seems above all to make you fall out of your seat.
The premise is this: Bernard, played by local favorite Jim Goza, is an ex-pat in Paris, who immodestly juggles three, count them, three fiancées, all of whom are “air hostesses” (60’s speak for super-chic fly attendants). Erika Wilhite, another local darling, is all sass as Berthe, Bernard’s ever-complaining French maid, who struggles to stay mum when his carefully scheduled timetable of revolving ladies lands him with all three over a single weekend. Gloria, the American, played with verve by Niccole Thurman, opens the show with Goza in a fashionable Paris flat (designed to a sexy T by Shawn D. Irish, whose work you might recall from last season’s opener, 39 Steps). Paloma Nozicka’s Gabriella is a sly Italian match for Bernard’s wily ways, but his bubbly German girlfriend, Gretchen, sees the most stage time, played by the totally far out Jenny Guy.
However, Chris Crawford’s clownish Robert Reed, the unprepared go-between for Bernard’s fair ladies, steals the show. And, Crawford has big shoes to fill, with Mark Rylance, a long-time personal favorite, having mastered the role in London and New York just a couple of years ago (helping to garner the show a Tony for Best Revival in 2008). But truly, Crawford makes the role all his own, in what is likely a bar-setter for T2 performances to come. Every gag seems so superbly timed that the next and the one after that will make you wonder just how long he can keep it up.
TheatreSquared has obviously found a model that works, doing justice by the greatest of local and international shows with some of the best theater in the region. Let’s hope that the rest of the season measures up to director Morgan Hicks’ efforts. But be warned, Hicks does pull the show hard toward its antic strengths, so if you aren’t too keen on rollicking, mostly innocent sex-comedies with slightly over-exuberant panache, then you might want to sit this one out.
Despite high expectations, this reviewer wasn’t disappointed in the least. Boeing-Boeing is, as they say, just a gas. If you’re hip to the Flyer, then I almost guarantee you’ll go ape over Hicks’ splashy season six powerhouse. Oh, and did I mention the show includes complimentary in-flight peanuts?
TheatreSquared is located in Nadine Baum Studios on West Spring Street just a block from Dickson. Tickets start at $22, or $10 if you qualify for their 30 Under 30 deal, and can be purchased at waltonartscenter.org. Boeing-Boeing runs through Sept. 25.
(Video courtesy of DGold.)
Tobias writes theatre reviews for the Fayetteville Flyer. He is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts through the Arkansas Programs in Creative Writing and Translation and teaches at the University of Arkansas. He is also an associate company member with The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre. For more of Tobias’ contributions, see his author page.