Boeing-Boeing, the inaugural production of Hot Summer Nights and its newly formed larger parent company, Theatre Raleigh, is a real humdinger, based on Beverley Cross and Francis Evans’ revised English-language script for the critically acclaimed 2008 Broadway revival of Marc Camoletti’s 1960 French sex farce, which is set during the Swinging Sixties in a plush bachelor pad near Paris-Orly Airport.
The play chronicles the misadventures of a swinging single American architect named Bernard (Ben Nordstrom), who fancies himself ladies’ man enough to juggle three flight-attendant fiancées, played by Cameron Wade as Gloria, the flirtatious Dixie chick who works for TWA; Lauren Barone as Gabriella, the temperamental Italian who works for Alitalia; and Lilly Nelson as Gretchen, the fiery German who works for Lufthansa. With the increasingly reluctant eye-rolling assistance of his spunky housekeeper Berthe (played by Mike Raab in drag), Bernard carefully schedules the three women’s arrivals and departures so that no two of them will ever try to join him in the master bedroom at the same time.
But then, one fateful day, the unexpected arrival of Bernard’s bumbling and hopelessly square old school chum Robert (played as a nerd’s nerd by Bryan T. Donovan), combined with bad weather and bad luck, threatens to bring Bernard’s brilliant arrangement to an end as all three women wing their way “home” simultaneously.
Ben Nordstrom is hilarious as the would-be Casanova about to get his comeuppance — in triplicate — from Cameron Wade as Gloria, Lauren Barone as Gabriella, and Lilly Nelson as Gretchen. On opening night, June 13th, Misses Wade, Barone, and Nelson were delightful as three very different young women with matrimony on their minds; but Triangle theater veteran Mike Raab was still having a little trouble slipping beneath Berthe’s skin. Raab moved awkwardly in heels and at times struggled with his French accent, but still managed to deliver his most stinging quips, right on target.
But it is the outrageous antics of Bryan Donovan as Robert that had the audience howling with laughter as he staggered around the stage on unsteady legs — like a young Jerry Lewis, only without that awful whiny voice — while Robert and Berthe desperately try to cover for Bernard. Donovan delivers a virtuoso comic performance, with rubbery facial expressions, posture, and pratfalls heightening its hilarity.
Bryan Donovan’s performance would be worth the price of admission, all by itself; but Boeing-Boeing also boasts a brilliantly coached cast — put through the paces at the gallop by guest director Jessica Bogart, who performed in the 2008 Broadway revival of Boeing-Boeing and adds a number of nice touches in Raleigh that are frosting on the comic cake.
Scenic and lighting designer Chris Bernier’s swanky set — with seven doors to slam! — and the colorful Swinging Sixties fashions recreated by costume designer LeGrande Smith also help make this sex farce a real knee-slapper as the crackerjack cast, led by Bryan Donovan, and the imaginative and resourceful creative team, led by director Jessica Bogart, helped Boeing-Boeing take wing once more, much to the delight of the audience, which rewarded the company with a hearty — and well-deserved — standing ovation on opening night.
SECOND OPINION: June 14th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/05/23/2136485/boeing-boeing-is-grand-start-to.html; and June 6th Raleigh, NC BWW News Desk preview: http://raleigh.broadwayworld.com/article/Jessica-Bogart-to-Direct-BOEING-BOEING-at-Kennedy-Theatre-613-24-20120606. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of Triangle Theater Review’s June 12th preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/06/hot-summer-nights-2012-season-opener-boeing-boeing-is-a-classic-french-farce-by-marc-camoletti/.)
Hot Summer Nights and Theatre Raleigh present BOEING-BOEING at 8 p.m. June 15 and 16, 3 p.m. June 17, 8 p.m. June 20-23, and 3 p.m. June 24 in the K.D. & Sara Lynn Kennedy Theatre in back of the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $24 ($20 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 866-811-4111 or https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/27655.
INFORMATION: 919-480-5166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Play (background): http://www.boeingboeing.co.uk/ (official U.K. West End website), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing-Boeing_(play) (Wikipedia), and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=2133 (Internet Broadway Database).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Camoletti_(playwright) (Wikipedia).
The Director: http://broadwayworld.com/people/Jessica-Bogart/ (BroadwayWord.com).
Bryan T. Donovan: http://bryantdonovan.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryan_T._Donovan (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.