IF YOU GO
What: French sex farce about a bachelor juggling three air hostess fiancees
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday & Sundays through Nov. 21
Where: 2267 1st Street, Fort Myers
Cost: $38 & $42
Information: (239) 332-4488, floridarep.org
Something else: Free parking across the street; watch out for ongoing road construction in downtown Fort Myers
Paris is the city of light, of romance, of dreams. And apparently, of swank apartments and playboy bachelors with air hostesses stashed in every bedroom and a cranky Gallic maid in the kitchen. At least, that's the impression Florida Repertory Theatre leaves with their sparkling new comedy "Boeing-Boeing."
The play, from Frenchman Marc Camoletti and adapted by Beverley Cross, ran for 17 years in Paris and is the most-performed French play in the world. Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis starred in a 1965 film version and a 2008 Broadway revival won two Tony Awards.
Set in the swinging 1960s, "Boeing-Boeing" follows the adventures of Bernard (a hyperactive Brendan Powers), a bachelor juggling three lovely fiancees from TWA, Alitalia and Lufthansa. Door-slamming hijinks ensue after an elaborate timetable used to track the girls' flights succumbs to weather delays and everyone hits town on the same night.
Director Robert Cacioppo has his actors playing this sex farce right to the hilt. The characters are deliciously one-dimensional and they know it - and celebrate it. Accents are exaggerated. Withering looks are leveled. Walls are climbed. Doors are slammed. A few breasts are fondled. Don't look shocked, they're French.
First out the gate are the ladies: Deanna Gibson (Gloria, TWA), Christina Lynn Phillips (Gabriela, Alitalia) and Rachel Lomax (Gretchen, Lufthansa). They're sexy. They're stylish (Roberta Malcom's mod costumes, each with a signature color and vintage flight bag, capture the spirit of the free-wheeling era) and they're definitely hilarious.
Each actress plays her particular stereotype for all the laughs in France (the brash American, the lusty Italian), but Lomax is absolutely riveting as the domineering German. She towers in a blonde wig and canary-yellow mini-dress and works those guttural consonants for every inch of comedy that they're worth.
Florida Rep regular Mark Chambers winds up in the middle of all this fuss as Robert, a mild-mannered Wisconsinite who's visiting Bernard in Paris and winds up the bedroom traffic controller. Chambers nails the understated role perfectly, playing the meek kitten against a trio of man-hungry tigresses - armed only with his quick wit and an array of wonderfully deadpan expressions.
Despite the show's outwardly sexist attitudes, "Boeing-Boeing" subtly reflects the decade's changing attitudes. The men, for all they appear to be in charge, are kept constantly on a string, running to and fro at the whim of the ladies. Carrie Lund's maid, Bertha, even perches on a chair and reads a magazine while Chambers lugs suitcases around the apartment is one of the night's funniest sequences.
If there is a disappointment, it is that the play takes a little too long to go wheels up; the opening scenes seem stiff in comparison to the rest of the high-flying adventure. Also, while I loved her chic wig, I'm not a fan of Lund's maid costume. From the neck up, she's a ringer for Edith Head; from the neck down it seems more Madame Thénardier.
Jim Hunter's set is stunning. White walls with gold wainscoting and acres of gold medallions hanging everywhere evoke the post-war Paris of the 60s on a grand scale, while a pair of Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs complete the look. The sleek modernist pad serves as the perfect departure lounge for the chaos about to take flight.
Put your seat backs and tray tables in their fully upright and locked positions. "Boeing-Boeing" pulls back from the gate with three lusty air hostesses and a cabin full laughs. Buckle up, it is going to be a funny ride.