“Boeing Boeing” a French Farce with International Appeal

Seven doors. Three fiancés. Two men. A confused French maid. Mix these elements together with split second timing, sharp dialogue, and a healthy dose of physical comedy, and you have Boeing Boeing, now playing at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. The Marc Camoletti play (translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans) was a hit when first produced in the early 1960s in French, and brought in audiences when translated into English and performed in London for seven years. It went to Broadway in 2008 and has been produced throughout the country since. Now, Hoosiers can enjoy the fast-paced comedy in the opulence and comfort of our own IRT Mainstage.
Caddish Bernard (Matt Schwader), an American architect with a fabulous Paris apartment, has it all — well, actually, too much of a good thing in some ways. He has managed to juggle three air hostess fiancés thanks to the International Flight Book, an anxiously complicit maid named Berthe (Elizabeth Ledo), and some applied mathematics. Old college buddy Robert (Chris Klopatek) comes to visit to look up family in France, but really to find love. Instead, he finds the lovely America stewardess Gloria (Hillary Clemens) leaving the apartment, and Robert explains his elaborate scheme for keeping three ladies flying in and out of his bed. Equally appalled and intrigued by Bernard’s lifestyle, he sticks around to see how this all works, and instead witnesses how it all nearly falls apart when the new Boeing super-fast jets start messing with timetables — and Bernard’s best-laid plans. Hilarity ensues when Gretchen (Greta Wohlrabe) shows up early and Robert becomes infatuated with the straightforward German in Bernard’s absence, but then lovely Italian Gabriella (Melisa Pereyra) shows up for a few days, and the two men must figure out ways to hide the girls from each other . . . and then Gloria returns unexpectedly to really mess things up. A twisty ending is satisfying for everyone concerned — especially poor Gerthe, who is pretty sure she’s heading for a nervous breakdown if it goes on much longer.
Like all great farce, there are near-misses, misdirection, and split-second exits and entrances — director Laura Gordon has her hands full pushing and pulling the actors across the set and getting the dialogue to pop and crackle. A very accomplished classically trained cast revels in the snappy script and lets go with lots of physicality — especially hilarious is the tiny Berthe given a wildly enthusiastic greeting by statuesque Gretchen, and Robert and Bernard leaping and diving into beanbag chairs and floor pillows. Of course it is all wild and ridiculous and silly — and also precisely what audiences need right now.
Last year’s triumphant  IRT production of The Mystery of Irma Vep and this year’s glorious Boeing Boeing are clear indications that farcical comedy is alive and well — and being performed superbly here in Indianapolis. A strategically simple set design by Vicki Smith and spot-on costuming by Mathew LeFebvre help bring this show to life.
Hurry to get tickets to Boeing Boeing as word is spreading fast at how good this show is, and it will be playing  through April 2. Visit irtlive.com or call 317-635-5252 for reservations.