Director Matthew Warchus and his outrageous cast have turned the revival of the slight Boulevard farce "Boeing-Boeing" into a hilarious highlight of the season. Warchus expertly guides his gifted ensemble to fits of inspired lunacy lifting the 1960’s vehicle a mile high with a bold physical production that is a laugh out loud riot.
The story concerns Bernard (Bradley Whitford) an architect living in Paris, who has been successfully juggling three "air hostesses" from rival airlines. They just happen to be his fiancées as well. His maid Berthe (Christine Baranski) reluctantly plays the romantic traffic controller as the women fly in and out of his elegant bachelor pad on precisely kept schedules. When his old school hood chum from Wisconsin, Robert (Mark Rylance), turns up unexpectedly all sorts of mayhem ensues as schedules change, flights are delayed, and the women converge in a crescendo of silly over the top chaos.
The retro chic costumes and the sleek set design are by Rob Howell. The women’s form fitting uniforms in contrasting brightly colored hues are cut to accentuate the curves. And the swanky apartment boasts a curved wall with seven doors
from which the fantastic cast will make numerous frenzied entrances and exits.
Playing the broad physical style while adhering to the visceral truth are a marvelous group of actors led be the astonishing Mark Rylance making his Broadway debut reprising his role from the hit London production. He is a master of physical comedy embodying the shy retiring nebbish. He seems to shrink inconspicuously from sight, or to burst into unpredictable flights of manic energy. His Robert is at first overwhelmed by the beautiful women and his friend’s unbelievable life style. But as he attempts to cover up for Bernard, he is transformed from a meek bystander into a player with a clever cover. He navigates the unexpected turbulence with hysterically funny results calling to mind vintage Stan Laurel.
Right behind him in a less flashy role as the cock sure Bernard, Whitford practically skips from the pure intoxication of his bliss and later shudders with horror, even doing splits on one occasion, as the tale escalates and eminent disaster looms.
Less successful and possible still discovering her footing is Christine Baranski as the maid. She has many outlandish moments, but her characterization feels somewhat one noted.
The three duped women at the core of the story shine: Kathryn Hahn as Gloria, a hedonist gold digging American with her own hidden agenda; Gina Gershon as the fiery hot blooded jealous Italian; Mary McCormack as Gretchen, a terrifyingly intense German with a crazed defense of the benefits of sauerkraut. They are like the oil to a well tuned engine. They embrace their stereotypical bimbo images with an emblazoned passion for the broad style that is both side-splittingly funny and subtly nuanced as well. These are beautiful accomplished actresses at the top of their game and in full flight.
If audience reaction is any sort of gage expect the delightful concoction "Boeing-Boeing" to be around for quite a long run. And if laughter is indeed healing then the revival must be a deliriously good tonic!
By: Gordin & Christiano
Originally Published in Dans Papers
"Boeing Boeing" opened on Broadway May 4, 2008 at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. For tickets call 212-239-6200 or visit the theatre box office.