A strange sense of awareness enveloped Aisle Say 10 minutes into Act I of BOEING BOEING. I perused the full house. If not Manti Te'o's gfriend, there was another phantom, another spirit with a presence.
Then Jeffrey Hawkins (Robert) fumbled with his suitcases. The mystery was solved. That specter was Jerry Lewis. This farce, penned by a French writer, was written for the way that country appreciates comedy; excessively broad and physical. It was made into a movie with Lewis, perfectly cast. That is why he is so much more revered en François than here in his homeland.
The first part of Act I was pure French humor; a bit ridiculous and overdone. The plot would have proceeded quicker sans the absurd pratfalls and suitcase fumbling. Happily, from mid-point and then for the entire second act, the action proceeds at a pretty - and humorous - pace.
Bernard is a busy man; busy and extremely organized. He is "engaged" to 3 'stewardi' employed at 3 different airlines: American, Lufthansa and Al Alitalia. He knows their travel schedules intimately and each woman resides at his swank Paris apartment during "lay"overs.
Friend Robert from Wisconsin says this is polygamy. Bernard replies: "They don't think it's immoral. Why should I?" But, mais oui, the 3 women know nothing of the other two!
Ah, the '70's, those halcyon days of "Coffee, tea or me?" Bernard's pad, designed by Stephanie Hansen, is replete with a sunken living room, Mies van der rohe chairs and the classic bean bag chair - soon to be flung hither and yon.
The "stews" fit their national stereotypes as snug as their fitted uniforms by designer Kim Krumm Sorenson. The trio are brilliant comediennes. Sara Bruner (Gloria) creates that wonderful yet loathsome Texas drawl that make Northerners wince; Gisela Chipe - who looks like Catherine Zeta-Jones younger sister - (Gabriella) plays 'petulant' perfettamente; Heidi-Marie Ferren (Gretchen) of course must go Teutonic on us. She's only missing the stag horn helmet.
However, it is Gretchen's "you VILL do this, you VILL do that" to Robert, a latter day Mr. Peepers, that sets the comedy in gear. Now it's all downhill and the doors are banging shut and the laughs are flying high like planes circling Orly Airport.
Sarah Doherty (Berthe) is Bernard's maid and in cahoots with him regarding the tantalizing trio of stews. She rebuilt her characterization in Act II, after surviving the forced farce of early Act I.
At first blush, the Lothario character Bernard is not suitably cast. But, when weather forces planes to be turned back and all the women to return to the apartment simultaneously, his machismo dissolves like The Wicked Witch receiving Dorothy's pail of water. Very funny bit.
Director Steve Tague is a member of UD REP Ensemble and Aisle Say has had the pleasure of seeing him in many roles. He was a perfect choice due to his facility with dialects. It is great to see a growing relationship between these two august companies.
Thru February 10. DelawareTheatre.org 302.594.1100