For unadulterated, if slightly adulterous, entertainment , it’d be terribly difficult to top Boeing-Boeing, currently playing at the Paper Mill Playhouse. The play itself is gossamer-flimsy, a 1960s sex farce by late French playwright Marc Camoletti: Bernard, the proverbial American in Paris, has been successfully juggling three air hostess fiancées, one from TWA, one from Air Italia and one from Lufthansa.
His French housekeeper Berthe grudgingly cooperates in his erotic “air-traffic control” scheme. When Bernard’s hapless, provincial school pal Robert drops in to visit, the turbulence begins, as schedules change and bustling bed-hopping bedlam follows.
This kind of lightweight entertainment flies or crashes on the strength of its cast and production, and this Boeing-Boeing flies hilariously high, even it doesn’t quite soar like the hit Broadway production in 2008. Of the three nubile stewardesses, Anne Horak makes the strongest impression as the insanely Teutonic Gretchen – probably because this is easily the showiest and funniest of the three roles. John Scherer is very funny indeed as Robert, even if he isn’t as crazy good as Mark Rylance was on Broadway. But that’s such an unfair comparison, like comparing an above average movie star to Meryl Streep.
In this production it’s Beth Leavel, as the laconic Galois-puffing Berthe, who walks away with the biggest laughs, mining character comedienne gold. She rockets past the rest of the cast, right into the stratosphere. Her hamming is shameless, her slapstick, scene-stealing – both entirely appropriate for this kind of show. This proves that the Broadway production wasn’t a fluke, that Boeing-Boeing is a sturdy, belly-laugh-inducing sex comedy that should be entertaining audiences for years to come.
For tickets, click here.