AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Marc Camoletti
Translated from the French by Beverley Cross & Francis Evans
Directed by Jeanie K. Smith
Presented by Palo Alto Players
Lucie Stern Theater
1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA /(650) 329-0891

Reviewed by Judy Richter

"We're in for a bumpy ride," the housekeeper says at the end of Act 1 of "Boeing Boeing," Marc Camoletti's hilarious, Tony-winning farce presented by Palo Alto Players. That's an understatement.

It starts smoothly enough as Bernard (Michael Rhone), an American architect living in Paris, deftly juggles his engagement to three glamorous stewardesses, each working for a different airline. The key to his success, he smugly tells the visiting Robert (Evan Michael Schumacher), is to make sure that no two or three of them are in town at the same time. It's all in knowing the timetables, he tells his old school chum.

Then circumstances conspire against him. Between inclement weather and faster jets, schedules change. Soon Bernard, aided by his housekeeper, Berthe (Mary Moore), and Robert, are frantically trying to keep the stewardesses from discovering each other in Bernard's flat near the airport.

When Robert first arrives, he comes across as a a Wisconsin rube, but as the play continues, he becomes the comic center of the action. He also finds himself attracted to the German woman, Gretchen (Robyn Winslow). He also tries to fend off the attentions of Gloria (Damaris Divito), an American; and Gabriella (Nicole Martin), an Italian.

Schumacher's expressive face and eyes carry much of the play's comic momentum as Robert reacts to quickly changing circumstances and tries to help Bernard while trying not to succumb to his growing attraction to Gretchen.

Playing Berthe, Moore adds another dimension of comedy to the goings-on as she shifts from deadpan reactions to disbelief to resignation. Both she and Schumacher prove to be masterful comic actors.

Rhone's Bernard is suave and self-assured until things start to unravel. Then he becomes ever more frantic as he tries to protect his deceptions. Divito, Martin and Winslow are all suitably attractive as the stewardesses, but Winslow's Gretchen can be too strident.

Director Jeanie K. Smith deftly orchestrates all the madcap action with precise timing for every entrance and exit. She also keeps most of the hysteria under control, not an easy task in farce.

A farce would hardly be a farce without a lot of doors. Patrick Klein meets this criterion with seven doors as part of the Mondrian-inspired decor of his set (lit by Nick Kumamoto with sound by George Mauro).

Shannon Maxham's costumes, which feature some sexy teddies for the stewardesses, are character-specific and suitable for the year, 1965. However, Robert wears his jacket and vest throughout the show, making him work up a sweat in this physically demanding role.

Running two and a half hours with one intermission, the show is lightweight but highly entertaining, just right for early summer.

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