Sunday, May 4, 2014

Wetumpka Depot: "Boeing Boeing"

The Wetumpka Depot Theatre has hit magic again with its hilarious production of Marc Camoletti's farce Boeing Boeing. -- If there is a recipe for success, the Depot has concocted a gourmet dinner: one brilliantly witty script, a sure-handed director, an inventive design team, and a multi-talented veteran acting ensemble who collaborate to make Boeing Boeing a laugh filled riot.

The 1962 hit has been revived in recent years in London and New York, where it received several awards, and has been making the rounds since then at university, professional, and community theatres across the country.

Director Ed Drozdowski works the play's magic with his actors, whose physical and vocal energy, split-second timing, and spot-on delivery of dialogue keeps audiences laughing throughout its two-and-a-half hour running time.

It is the "swinging sixties" in bachelor architect Bernard's [Lee Bridges] Paris apartment. Bernard is 'engaged' to three stewardesses who fly for different airlines: Gloria [Jaymee Vowell] for TWA, Gabriella [Leanna Wallace] for Alitalia, and Gretchen [Madyson Greenwood] for Lufthansa. By his pure mathematical calculations, "Lothario" Bernard plans his time with each woman around their various itineraries, keeping each one ignorant of the others existence.  -- Until, of course, flight delays and new and faster Boeing-jet engines disrupt his plan, bringing all three women to the apartment at the same time.

Complicit in Bernard's design is his housekeeper-cook Berthe [Erika Wilson], who has to think on her feet to accommodate every turn of events. -- And the unexpected arrival of Bernard's long-time friend Robert [Brad Sinclair] a nerdy rube from Wisconsin and the polar opposite of Bernard's sophistication, complicates matters as he gets involved in and is eventually transformed by Bernard's scheme and its allure.

Kristy Meanor's scenic design -- a sleek '60s-modern room with seven doors so necessary for quick hiding places and escapes that heighten the farcical elements -- accommodates the action. Bill Nowell's lighting, with specific colors and intensity to match the personalities of the three women and the colors of their uniforms, adds to the comedy. And the costume team has created a period look, taking both characterizations and professions into consideration; the stewardesses uniforms and accessories are particularly vivid red, blue, and yellow reminders of a time when air travel still had some glamor.

But everything comes together through the efforts of the actors, who create clear characters who never flinch from their individual concerns while being generous to one another on stage. Mr. Bridges' Bernard is arrogantly convinced that his plan will endure forever, so his eventual melt-down when things are falling apart is extremely funny. Ms. Wilson's Berthe, seemingly unflappable in the midst of mayhem, punctuates the action with barbs and forewarnings that go unheeded until she threatens to leave and negotiates terms for staying; her tongue-in-cheek delivery is exquisite.

In addition to physical attractiveness, each of Bernard's "fiancees" has a distinct personality that appeals  in some measure to him...and to we never doubt the attraction. Ms. Vowell portrays Gloria as a practical no-nonsense woman who is after her man, but who will leave him if another more suitable offer comes along; Ms. Wallace embues Gabriella with a Mediterranean passion that is seductive; and Ms. Greenwood depicts Gretchen as a Teutonic force who can switch on a dime from charm to threat -- in combination, they are simply wonderful, and the chemistry between each of them and Mr. Bridges is most credible.

The men are a comic double-act that keeps the action and the laughs rolling at a rapid pace. Mr. Bridges and Mr. Sinclair have a different kind of chemistry, a re-discovered friendship and an instant male-bonding that doesn't require explanations for acting the way they do. And yet, Mr. Sinclair has the responsibility for most of the farcical pratfalls and turns of events. His initial befuddlement and gradual seduction into Bernard's hedonistic world are masterful as he throws himself into the role with an innocence that makes his multiple discoveries about the world and about himself, and his change from introvert to extrovert, the comic delight of this production.

Mr. Drozdowski and his team of collaborators have put together an exceptionally brilliant production that should remain a highlight of this River Region season.