Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Boeing Boeing at Torch Theater

There are certain performances in the theater that you will never forget.  You know, even as you are watching the play, that you will remember and think fondly of that performance every single time you see that actor in another play. And with this one? You will also laugh.

If you're looking for flat-out slapstick fun, don't miss Torch Theater's production of Boeing Boeing at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. A welcome breath of spring and fun, it's winding up all too soon (runs through April 4th). 

Written by Marc Camoletti in the mid-60s and directed by Craig Johnson, Boeing Boeing is about a smooth player (Sam Landman) who juggles three air hostesses (Rachel Finch, Stacia Rice and Sara Richardson) with the help of his airline timetables, his naive hometown friend (Zach Curtis), and his imperious maid (Mo Perry). Naturally, romantic mix-ups, luggage mishaps, pratfalls and slamming doors abound. A flop on Broadway when it premiered in the 1960s, a revival in 2008 won Mark Rylance (recently seen here in the Guthrie's Nice Fish) a Tony for his portrayal as the player's friend.

Now, back to that performance ...

Image by Thomas Sandelands - Star Tribune
I don't know what on earth Sara Richardson (as Gretchen) is doing, or how she does it. She's so completely absurd and over-the-top, but completely sincere and committed at the same time. The physicality with which she expressed her character was both repressed and contained, but at the same time wildly expressive. Combine this physicality with her German accent and manner of speech, and a very flippy wig and the results were just incredibly hilarious. It's one of those performances you can't describe--you just have to see it. Her most indelible performance for me was in Pillsbury House Theatre's Buzzer (premiered here, but now in NYC at the Public)--it's amazing to think it's the same person, (I know it's what actors do, but I love to see such range.)

The entire cast is just as committed to the slapstick and the comedy in this piece.  Sam Landsman is wonderfully smooth, a lovely contrast to the somewhat grotesque character he played in Sexy Librarian, (Note to self: use caution when Googling that title.) Zach Curtis throws himself so fully into his character and his pratfalls that if he makes it through the run unscathed, I'd be surprised.  Stacia Rice had me from the moment she entered and threw her bag against the door--her exaggerated Italian accent and affectations were hilarious. Mo Perry is always delightful and hilarious, but I would have liked to see her character go a bit smaller in contrast with the rest of the proceedings. (I know, it's a farce. Small doesn't come into it!) The glasses that she wore also hid her wonderfully expressive face.
Image by Thomas Sandelands - Star Tribune

Speaking of costuming, the clothes were gorgeous. The air hostesses wore the heck out of their capes and their smart little dresses--not to mention the vintage flight bags. The pre-show samba-ish music set the stage beautifully for the show to come.

All in all, it's a completely delightful show, and the audience was wholeheartedly engaged and laughing like crazy. The woman next to us kept slapping her leg and saying, "Oh, no!" in an adorable way. It's a lovely little trip to the swinging 60s.

Total Tangent: After the show, I couldn't get "Swinging Nordwest", the kicky song that Jim Lichtschiedl used in his show Knock! (with Theater Latte Da) out of my head. It just seemed to fit in so perfectly with the aesthetic. Also, when the show was recently on Broadway, they worked with Kathleen Marshall to choreograph a curtain call dance (inspired by Rylance's work with the Globe and their dancing curtain calls). Very charming!