Boeing, Boeing for liftoff off at Alhambra

BOEING, BOEING, currently onstage at the Alhambra, is listed as the most performed French play in the Guinness book of world records.  Marc Camoletti’s play (translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans) is a farce: a comedy that seeks to entertain by being exaggerated, improbable and absurd.  The trick and challenge to producing a good farce is that the actors have to be believable in their unbelievable situation.  Timing and teamwork is everything.

Perennial bachelor Bernard (Thad Walker), has the perfect life in 1960’s Paris, with no desire to settle down.  A beautiful apartment, his maid Berthe (Lisa Valdini Booth), and three flight attendant girlfriends who each think they’re his fiancee and know nothing about one another.  His life revolves around meticulous flight schedules that keep the girlfriends from meeting.

Of course, something has to happen to mess up his schedule.  TWA hostess Gloria (Natalie Drake) is at the apartment when Bernard’s longtime friend Robert (Rodney Holmes) arrives.  Rodney is floored by Bernard’s arrangement, but winds up not only playing along, but orchestrating keeping the girls from meeting when and flight delays and alterior motives have Al Italia hostess Gabriella (Allyson Rosenblum) and Lufthansa hostess Gretchen (Jessie Clontz) at the apartment simultaneously – and of course Gloria’s flight is delayed as well.

The show is a little like an airfield, starting slow on the taxiway.  Mr. Walker is in a very straight role as Bernard, and Ms. Drake starts in a very straight manner as his over-the-moon fiancee.  However, once Ms. Clontz takes the stage, we have takeoff.  At one point she did her best to get Ms. Holmes to break character, and her physical ad lib was successful and beautiful.  I don’t usually condone those kinds of antics, but in this case, it really worked.

Lisa Valdini Booth as the put-upon French maid/cook is her impeccable self in the role of Berthe.  Berthe keeps the rooms and menu changed to suit the girlfriend of the moment for Robert on most days, but this day is above her paid grade.

Mr. Walker and Mr. Holmes play off each other quite nicely, one being the comic relief to the other, and have the audience rooting for them, even in situations where they shouldn’t be.  Gloria (“The American”) is supposed to be a brash New Yorker.  Hers was the only character that came across as too unbelievable at times.  The wig with her costume didn’t help, as no TWA hostess in the ’60’s would have been allowed on a plane looking uncoiffed.

Gabriella (“the Italian”) was portrayed with a perfect balances va-voom and no nonsense.  The final girlfriend to arrive is Gretchen (“The German”), who arrives like a hurricane and has the audience in stitches whenever she’s onstage.  The interactions between Mr. Holmes and Ms. Clontz were some of the funniest in the show.

BOEING, BOEING is at the Alhambra Theatre, 12000 Beach Blvd., May 23-June 16, 2024.  Ticket prices vary based on show and seating.  For reservations and a look at the treats yet to come for the season, go to alhambrajax.com or call (904) 641-1212.

By Cessy Newmon

About Cessy Newmon