Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: High-flying comedy ‘Boeing Boeing’ takes off in Peshtigo

Critic At Large

Coastal Players

Basic setup for Coastal Players production of “Boeing Boeing.” (Warren Gerds)

PESHTIGO, Wis. (WFRV) – The joke is a guy is juggling three fiancées.

It’s not impossible. All it takes is an apartment in Paris, a schedule for all international flights and three air hostesses to fly on different airlines.

Such is the bachelor life of Bernard in the play “Boeing Boeing,” which slides into being a comedy, which leaps into being a super-frenetic farce with out-loud laughs erupting in a production that’s part of dinner theater.

There are five stories here – the play, the production, the place, the performances, the producer.

+ The play is from the 1960s, when big airlines prided on dressing stewardesses (as they were called) in neat uniforms and presenting a bit of flair with such accoutrements as flight bags. The play draws from a style of wild-eyed storytelling that requires many entrances (six in this case) for quick arrivals and departures, a rogue with a nose for nuisance and a lackey friend who’s stuck with constant trouble. These plays savor the risqué.

+ The production is by Coastal Players, a young company based in Marinette/Menominee, with performances in a large room in Embers 1871 restaurant. “Boeing Boeing” is a first-time venture there – and a rarity for Peshtigo, period, being outside of a school setting.

+ The place has pluses and minuses. Dinner is served, and it is a variety of staples and choices from chicken/beef to desserts. On opening night Thursday the atmosphere was radiant. Restaurants are not theaters, though, so the production has an immediately obvious problem with lighting. Stage lights are located behind the audience, so the performance space is cast in shadows and a certain dimness. After a few minutes, that drawback is forgotten because of this:

+ The performance is essentially fantastic. Director John Thornberry and his cast attack the laughable story with all-out energy. The set is sturdy, and the costuming for the three fiancées is bright and snappy. Much feeds off the dynamism of James Porras II, who plays the lackey (Robert). James Porras II is a versatile actor who in this case has all the tricks in the book for a farce – shocked expression, quick reaction, a snap of the head, a pratfall, a come-hither look and a general amazing delivery of really fast lines. The timing by all in this production is spot-on. Nifty performances are presented by all – Kenan Pulver as the clever cad bachelor (Bernard), Rebecca Stone Thornberry as his grousing French housekeeper (Berthe), Michaela Kaiser as the American fiancée (Gloria), Brittany Welch as the Italian fiancée (Gabriella) and Jacqueline Nutter as the German fiancée (Gretchen). All the women adopt accents. All kinds of degrees of difficulty are taken on eagerly, making the humor infectious.

“Boeing Boeing” kiss with Bernard (Kenan Pulver) and Gloria (Michaela Kaiser) as Robert (James Porras II) watches. (Facebook of Coastal Players)

+ The producer (Brittany Welch) has a knack for finding challenges in material and performance places for her company’s first three productions – an old opera house, a park bandshell and now a restaurant. A farce is one of the trickiest forms of theater to pull off well, but Brittany Welch found a way to knit willing people to a challenging goal that’s not impossible. “That’s not impossible” happens to be a line in the play (of a certain sensuality) and the title of the exit song from Perry Como of the era of the show.

Two more performances lie ahead for this production that is full of lies (of the bachelor) but does anything but lie around in its energy level.

Notably, Wisconsin is funny in “Boeing Boeing.” It is written into the play that Robert is from Wisconsin. His Wisconsin is the opposite of chaos, which amid teeming mayhem makes it quietly comical.

***

Creative: Playwright – Marc Camoletti, translated from French by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans; director/sound designer – John Thornberry; producer – Brittany Welch; set designer/head carpenter – Joshua LaLonde; lighting designer/set assistant – Chris Weber; costume designer/prop assistant – Becca Archambault; prop master – James Porras II; costume/prop assistant – Alaina Archambault

Cast (in order of appearance)

Bernard – Kenan Pulver

Gloria – Michaela Kaiser

Berthe – Rebecca Stone Thornberry

Robert – James Porras II

Gabriella – Brittany Welch

Gretchen – Jacqueline Nutter

Running time: Two hours, 37 minutes

Remaining performances: Aug. 27-28, doors open at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m.

Info: https://bit.ly/BoeingBoeingEmbers

***

THE VENUE: The performance space is in a room that’s approximately 50 by 50 feet. The floor is laminate dark wood, the walls cream color and the white drop ceiling includes lights. The stage is a half-step above the audience level. To the left is a long bar. The audience sits at round tables with cloth table cloths, cloth napkins and real dinner ware. Located at W3529 Marinette County Road B, Embers 1871 is so named for one of the famous fires in American history that consumed the city of Peshtigo and took an estimated 1,500 lives. October 8 will mark 150 years since the fateful Peshtigo Fire.

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