by Marc Camoletti
Director: Robin Armstrong
Stage Manager: Sara Harris
Costume Designer: Robin Armstrong
Wardrobe: Sharon Standard
Light and Sound Board: Kyle Ward
Key Scenic Artist: Jon R. Kruse
Scenic Artist: Clare Floyd DeVries
Assistant Scenic Artist: Joseph Cummings
Master Carpenter: Rick Morrison
Carpenter: Brian Smith
Photography: Glen E. Ellman
Andy Baldwin as Robert
Emily Scott Banks as Gabriella
Sherry Hopkins as Gloria
Morgan McClure as Gretchen
Krista Scott as Bertha
Ashley Wood as Bernard
Reviewed Performance 2/26/2011
Reviewed by Ashlea Palladino, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Ft Worth's Circle Theatre opens its 30th season with Marc Camoletti's Boeing Boeing, the prequel to his (locally) oft-produced Don't Dress for Dinner. Set in France in 1968, Boeing Boeing offers us four farcical doors, and this expressive group of actors opens and closes each one with unbeatable physicality and comic timing.
The story focuses on Bernard, an English-born businessman whose most important business is keeping his three flight hostess fianc?es from bumping into each other at his Parisian flat. To unwittingly aid Bernard in this endeavor, his old chum Robert ? an American working in Aix-en-Provence ? pops in for an unexpected visit.
Bernard explains his less than traditional love life to the wide-eyed Robert, and though Robert is not exactly enthusiastic about Bernard's choices, his curiosity is piqued. Bernard manages to keep his lady loves separate and secret from each other by relying on his trusty book of flight schedules, though the book of schedules fails to account for changes in the weather, bringing all three of our flight hostesses home to Bernard on the same day.
Set Designer/Scenic Artist Clare Floyd DeVries, along with Master Carpenter Rick Morrison, brought Bernard's flat to life with masterful precision and depth. The stage floor was painted with slightly varying shades of brown to mimic parquet tiles, and the team built a very large chaise lounge to serve as the flat's central seating area.
The depth of the set and the space behind each of the doors brought an element of realism I've not often seen on a stage this size: the doors were substantially weighty, and they were actually framed in. Each time a door was opened, the audience caught a glimpse of the finished area behind the door, including monogrammed towels and a beautiful mirror in the bathroom, as well as sizeable art work on the walls behind the doors in the bedrooms.
Instead of ignoring the two very large support columns downstage, this creative team integrated them into the set by painting them a striking copper color, and wrapping the lower portion of the downstage right column in brown leather (finished with brass nail heads so that the piece appeared tufted) to serve as the bar.
Director/Costume Designer Robin Armstrong's vision for the wardrobe of her actors was spot on. Each of our flight hostesses was dressed in an era-appropriate frock that represented their respective airlines, along with coordinating shoes, headpieces and lapel pins. The ladies carried bags advertising the names of their employers ? TWA, Alitalia and Lufthansa ? and the coloring of the bags perfectly matched each lady's flight uniform. The uniform selected for Bertha, Bernard's cook and housekeeper, was appropriately dour and without flair, and Bernard himself sported a conservative dark blue suit that fit him very nicely. Robert wore brown (lots of brown), and his argyle sweater and bow tie couldn't have been more perfectly suited to his character.
Ms. Armstrong selected three very different ladies to portray our flight hostesses, and their distinctive looks and accents helped cement their characters. Sherry Hopkins (Gloria) was a riot as the perky Southern fianc? whose ideals about love and marriage are, in the end, slightly less than romantic. Emily Scott Banks (Gabriella) played our raven-haired, dark-eyed Italian hostess, and her presence was commanding whenever she was on stage. Ms. Banks's accent was credible, and I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Gabriella became incensed! She was definitely hard to ignore. Morgan McClure (Gretchen) was physically funny as our German hostess, but I hoped for something a little more domineering and direct in her characterization, and something a little less cheerleader-ish. Ms. McClure's accent also seemed at times to travel from Germany across to other parts of Europe.
Perhaps the best onstage duo was that of Ashley Wood (Bernard) and Krista Scott (Bertha). While mostly devoted to her employer, Ms. Scott's Bertha was understandably frustrated and torn and irritated by her employer's constantly-changing love schedule, as well as the resulting impact on her own schedule and work. And while Mr. Wood's Bernard became similarly annoyed by his domestic helper, he knew his triumvirate of hostesses would be impossible to manage without Bertha's help. Their connection reminded me of that of a brother and sister, and they played off of each other very naturally.
While all of the performances in this show were above par, Andy Baldwin was the evening's standout as Robert. Mr. Baldwin had, by far, the largest number of lines to remember, but the genius of his performance was revealed more in his physicality. Mr. Baldwin was constantly in a state of sheer panic, and, as revealed in our abounding laughter, the audience had no problem believing and accepting this panic as genuine. We saw the whites of Mr. Baldwin's eyes, we saw him nearly do a backbend, and we saw his body in perpetual frenetic motion. Mr. Baldwin was an absolute joy to watch.
Circle Theatre,230 West Fourth Street,Fort Worth, TX 76147-0456
817-877-3040 / www.circletheatre.com
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 3:00pm and at 8:00pm
Through April 2, 2011