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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Attic Theatre’s ‘Boeing-Boeing’ has bounce

The farce opens the 65th anniversary season.

PHOTO: John Richards and Michelle Tepolt rehearse for Attic Theatre’s production of “Boeing-Boeing.” Attic Theatre photo

MENASHA, Wis. (WFRV) – A thriving bachelor architect in Paris has three fianceés who are hostesses for airlines. Sound like a frisky story? You bet. That’s the core of “Boeing-Boeing,” a farce from the ’60s that still has kick (4 stars out of 5) in the Attic Theatre production that’s playing through June 28 at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley Communication Arts Center. Info: www.attictheatreinc.com.

***

Creative: Playwright – Marc Camoletti; translation – Beverly Cross, Francis Evans; director – Curt Cristnot; set and lighting designer – Erick Gyrion; stage manager – Mark Hawbaker; costumer – Tricia Adams; properties manager – Nicole Polester.

Cast: Bernard – John Richards; Gretchen – Jennifer Koroll; Robert – Michael Laskowski; Gabriella – Tara Mendez; Berthe – Stacy Parrish; Gloria – Michelle Tepolt.

***

Written by French playwright Marc Camoletti, the play opens with bachelor Bernard bragging to his visiting old school chum, Robert, about his lively life style. Bernard boasts he’s able to keep track of his globe-trotting girlfriends by a master airline schedule. This day, he admits things are a bit “touch and go” because Gloria (American), Gabriella (Italian) and Gretchen (German) will be departing and arriving in different day parts. But everything will work out…

Not. This being a farce, Murphy’s Law is in effect: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. And the future’s not so bright for Bernard’s style of bachelorhood, either. Boeing, the airplane maker, has come out with a bigger, faster, better jetliner, and Bernard is not built for the kind of speed that the craft can deliver his fiancées to and from his well-appointed pad. On this day, Robert helps rescue Bernard from the fine mess that ensues. Or tries to help.

Often with farces, it takes time to get all the complexities in motion. “Boeing-Boeing” has a plus in an additional character, Berthe, Bernard’s live-in housemaid. Berthe is interesting, period. Berthe grumbles. Berthe grouses about Bernard’s ever-changing menus (to match the taste of the fiancée at hand). Berthe complains about this, that and the other thing. Bernard is an awfully complex employer to work for, and Berthe lets him know it. In the play structure, Berthe keeps the audience entertained as Bernard’s pot of trouble works its way to boil. As Berthe, Stacy Parrish is extremely entertaining with a French accent, sense of comic timing and I-could-care-less manner. A maid with an ATTITUDE – yes!

John Richards and Michael Laskowski latch on to the desperation of Bernard and Robert, respectively. The two fire up the action as the fiancées swing into and out of the apartment and prompt another set of lies by Bernard that Robert tries to cover up or add to. Robert may be the foil – the “second guy” in the play – but he works so hard because of all the shenanigans that Michael Laskowski has (deserved) honors in the final spot in the cast bows at the end.

Tara Mendez (Gabriella), Michelle Tepolt (Gloria) and Jennifer Koroll (Gretchen) each have zippy elements to their “stewardess” (old word) roles – a bit of sauce, a bit of clothing style (thanks to costume design), a bit of seductiveness. Jennifer Koroll is especially expressive as the German girlfriend. (Marc Camoletti adapts a French stance with Gretchen in picking on her love for sauerkraut and her militaristic approach to romance. Stereotyping, yes, but fun).

All this is played out on a set that takes up the full, wide stage. For a Paris apartment (normally the size of a postage stamp), this one is GIANT.

To a degree, all the maneuvering with the comings and goings of the girlfriends – is wearing – another cover-up, another close call in a tricky situation. But often another quip rises from someone, or another snappy/nagging comment from Berthe, so there’s always a laugh around. As entertainment, “Boeing-Boeing” still flies.

REST OF SEASON: “Death Trap,” July 10-19; “Bye Bye Birdie,” July 25-Aug. 2.

VENUE: The 361-seat, two-level James W. Perry Hall features a proscenium (flat-front) stage with a substantial performance area of 36 feet wide by 86 feet deep. Acoustic clouds are part of the ceiling. On the side walls are acoustic panels of copper color that matches the woodwork stain on seat backs and arms and on decorative square and rectangular wood panels. The theater is amply equipped and fairly new. The UWFV Communication Arts Center opened in 2009. The adjacent lobby is spacious and includes a ticket office, snack service area, restrooms and spaces for art and photo displays.

NAMESAKE: James W. Perry is the former dean and campus executive officer of UWFV.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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