"Boeing Boeing" -- ★ ★ ½
Within moments of "Boeing-Boeing" taking off, it's all too apparent where this French farce will touch down.
Marc Camoletti's innocuous 1962 play, about a man romancing three women at the same time, follows a predictable route: It glides along on the requisite riotous attempts to maintain a deception, followed by a cheeky confrontation and a happy ending.
"Boeing-Boeing," running through March 17 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, embraces familiar tropes including miscommunication and mistaken identities, secrets and schemes -- all spiced with a bit of PG-rated innuendo. The result is a formulaic, overly long comedy.
Metropolis' solid production, however, makes up for some of the play's shortcomings. Vigorously staged by director Joe Lehman, "Boeing-Boeing" is ably performed by a well-rehearsed cast with spot-on timing and a flair for physical comedy.
The action centers on the romantic life of architect and American transplant Bernard (Rian Jairell), who lives the 1960s pop-culture version of a heterosexual man's ideal. He's single. He resides in a fab Paris apartment (a chic, pale blue, bachelor pad accented with bold colors and designed by Jeremy Hollis). And he has three fiancees, all flight attendants unaware of the others' existence. Relying on airline schedules that effectively keep two of the women in the air and one in his bed, Bernard successfully manages his affairs with some help from his put-upon housekeeper Berthe (a wry, weary Lauren Goode).
He explains the advantages of prenuptial polygamy to his friend Robert (Matt Gall, whose antics earned spontaneous applause). Recently arrived from Wisconsin, Robert longs to marry for the "social advantages," meaning sex, which Gall makes comically clear.
Bernard, who craves variety and fears boredom, insists his way is better.
"You get all the advantages of married life with none of the drawbacks," he says. "Fiancees are much more friendly than wives. And you don't need all that many. I do very well with three."
To have fewer, he explains, would be monotonous. More? Too tiring.
Initially skeptical, Robert comes to appreciate Bernard's lifestyle after meeting American fiancee Gloria (the deliciously sharp-edged Maeghan Looney), Italian fiancee Gabriella (an ebullient Sarah Kmiecik) and German fiancee Gretchen (Sophia Foldvari, in a nicely comic turn). But Robert's admiration turns to panic when all three women unexpectedly show up at the same time, forcing him to do some fast talking to maintain his friend's deception.
Jairell has the easy confidence of a man who seems to have figured out all the angles. No matter that satisfying his own desires means deceiving women he claims to love. Then again, male caricatures from 1960s sex farces weren't exactly hip to the inherent sexism that underscores such an unequal relationship.
Much of the play's physical comedy falls to Gall and Foldvari, who's terrific as the dangerously ungainly Gretchen. But it's Gall's delightfully flustered Robert and the actor's deft handling of comic shtick that elicited the biggest laughs from comedy's equivalent of a puddle-jumper: fine for a short hop, but unsatisfying for the long haul.
• • •
Location: Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, (847) 577-2121 or metropolisarts.com
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday through March 17
Running time: About two hours, 15 minutes including intermission
Parking: Nearby garage and street parking available
Rating: For older teens and adults, contains sexual innuendo and references