Sex farce ‘Boeing’ returns with acclaim
BY STEVEN MARK / firstname.lastname@example.org
Put up your tray tables, fasten your seat belts — and loosen your morals? Winging its way to Honolulu is “Boeing, Boeing,” a 1960s sex farce from France that originally crashed and burned in the U.S., then took flight again to rave reviews.
“BOEING, BOEING: A NONSTOP COMEDY”
Where: Manoa Valley Theatre, 2833 E. Manoa Valley Road
When: Premieres Thursday; 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 4 p.m. Sundays, through Jan 27
Info: 988-6131 or centerstageticketing.com
The play, which premieres Thursday at Manoa Valley Theatre, mixes a stew of stewardesses (or flight attendants, for those of you too young to remember the “swinging ’60s”) with an amorous architect, Bernard, who gets caught juggling their affections and flight schedules when airplane manufacturer Boeing comes out with a new superjet.
Back in the ’60s, “Boeing” was a huge hit in France and London, appearing “right at the beginning of when sexual comedies were coming out,” said Elitei Tatafu Jr., who is directing the play for MVT.
“Boeing” flopped on Broadway, but a 2008 revival found appeal with theatergoers and critics; it was described as soaring into the “unpolluted stratosphere of classic physical comedy” by the New York Times.
Tatafu is incorporating some of the comic spirit of the revival, but he is presenting the play in its original version. He also has his own director’s take on the production.
Nostalgia for the ’60s probably factors into the play’s current popularity, Tatafu said.
“Looking back, we have so many throwbacks to that era, like the Austin Powers movies, like ‘Mad Men,’” he said.
In the play, the stewardesses — all of whom believe they are engaged to Bernard — are French, German and American, and Bernard and his friend Robert are French. However, Tatafu said Manoa Valley Theatre’s production is keeping the leading men’s accents to a minimum to keep the dialogue clear, letting the play’s double entendre-loaded wordplay come through.
Adding to the chaos is a lot of frantic activity up on stage, with the comings and goings of various characters punctuated by door-slams.
“We have three bedrooms, a bathroom, a front door, a kitchen and a dining room that have active doors that people go in and out of,” said Mathias Maas, who plays Bernard.
“It’s not just lines; it’s lines and slamming doors and entrances that all hit a rhythm for the thing to really work.”
Maas said his character lives a life of “order and organization,” keeping his dalliances regulated by flight schedules. (This being a farce, one must suspend reality and believe that flights are always on time.)
“Because these hostesses are all on a timetable, he’s got them chosen because of their schedule,” he said. “One’s in the air, one’s leaving, and one’s landing.”
In other words, none of the women know about each other. At least, not initially.
THE PLAY, Maas said, “is definitely (from) a different time.”
“We now have enough distance from the ’60s to be able to look at the gender roles and how some people view marriage in a different light,” he said.
Dusty Behner portrays the American stewardess, Janet, who is “very driven.”
“She really is a man-eater, and she really knows how to manipulate each man to get exactly what she wants,” said Behner, who also designed the play’s period costumes.
“The other characters make it very clear that they don’t like me, and they don’t like Americans. … It’s very fun to play, but you can see that the other girls don’t like her.”
Tatafu said he’s incorporated a lot of “special effects” into the play, such as a set staged in an apartment that semi-automatically adjusts to each stewardess as each flies into town, flipping pictures on the wall and changing out the flowers on the table. His philosophy for that was simple: “What can I make you look at that’s going to be interesting and make you laugh?”