Monday, March 24, 2014

Boeing, Boeing at Olympia Little Theatre

left-Bernard (Zach Holstine), center from top Gretchen(Teresa Forster), Gloria (Michaela Hickey) and Gabriella (Maisha Gannie), right Robert (Ken Luce).
 The first thing that struck me when entering Olympia Little Theatre to see Boeing, Boeing was the gorgeous set designed and constructed by Matthew Moeller. Like nearly all sets at OLT, it consisted of a back wall with doors and some furniture and various props. The design of the space with seating on three sides makes such an arrangement practically the only thing that can be done. But what Moeller has done with these simple tools is marvelous. On the back wall hung a triple portrait of one of the characters, Gloria (Michaela Hickey) in vibrant tones of blue. Everything in the room — from 1960-style ultra-modern furniture to the beautiful marbleized floor to the just-so cushions — was in cool shades of black, white and blue. It was ultra-cool in both meanings of the word (cool as in hip and laid back, and cool as in the blue and violet side of the color wheel). Even the lighting was in tones of lavender.

What I did not know before the play started was that all of this was going to change in simple but ingenious ways, so ingenious in fact that in the first act some of the props got more laughs than the actors.

Berthe (Lanita Grice) with Robert and Bernard
Here’s the set-up: Bernard (Zach Holstine) is a debonair ladies’ man living in a upscale apartment in Paris and engaged to three different women at the same time. All three women are flight attendants, or stewardesses as they were called back then. They each work different schedules on different airlines and are never in Paris at the same time. None of them know of the existence of the others, and none of them suspect that Bernard has no intention of every marrying anyone. Bernard, naturally, keeps careful tabs on their schedules, aided in his deception by his maid, Berthe (Lanita Grice). She is disdainful of her boss but goes along and even helps him keep up his deception because he’s the boss.

Robert and Gretchen
Where the changing set-up comes into play is that Bernard changes the apartment to suit each of his fiancées, swapping photographs and even color schemes to match the colors of their home countries, down to their countries’ flag embroidered on a cushion. The woman are: Gloria from New York, Gretchen (Teresa Forster) from Germany, and Gabriella (Maisha Gannie) from Italy.

Thrown into the mix is Bernard’s best friend, Robert (Ken Luce) who is at first shocked and then takes part in helping him deceive the women.

Written by Marc Camoletti and ably directed by Kathryn Beall, Boeing, Boeing is a romantic farce that begins slowly as a sophisticated comedy and progressively gets wilder and wilder, with the three women in and out of the apartment and in and out of various rooms, never running into each other until ultimately they do with surprising results.

Holstine is a young actor and not quite experienced enough to pull off the part, although he gives it his all. It is too easy, especially in the first act, to see that he is acting. Grice, playing the part of the maid, is much more believable and natural; although it is a shame that she spends so much time with her back to one-third of the audience, and unfortunate drawback of this type of thrust stage. The three fiancées are all charming. Finally, it is Luce who brings on the belly laughs. Not only is he the most outstanding actor in this cast, but when he is on stage the rest of the cast members elevate their performances in reaction to him. In the absurdly comic scene in which he drags a too-heavy suitcase to his bedroom his acting is almost equal to some of the great silent screen stars like Keaton and Chaplin, and his sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle facial expressions while standing in the background while others are talking could easily constitute scene stealing but actually call attention to the others.

Overall I thought it was slightly uneven but mostly hilarious. It’s a three-act play, and it runs almost three hours.

WHEN: 7:55 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday through April 13
WHERE: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia
TICKETS: $10-$14, available at Yenney Music Company on Harrison Avenue (360-943-7500) or INFORMATION: 360-786-9484,

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