By Jordan Wright (Photo/Doug Olmsted)
“Boeing Boeing” is the riotous tale of Bernard, an American architect whose Paris flat has become a way station for his international harem of flight attendants or, as they were once called, stewardesses.
That may seem a slight distinction, but it is not. When “Boeing Boeing” was written in 1962 by French playwright Marc Camoletti, flight attendants were young women — no men allowed.
Hired on the basis of their looks and the ability to speak at least two languages, they labored under a Draconian demerit system that held them accountable for having picture-perfect makeup and hair as well as maintaining model-like figures. It was considered a very glamorous profession for a young (oh yes, they aged them out in those days) woman.
They wore stunning uniforms — created by top fashion designers like Emilio Pucci and Oleg Cassini — and turned heads in their miniskirts. Men went wild trying to get a date with these beauties, though they were urged to stay single. Costume designers Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley’s fabulous early Mod look reflects the fashion of the period in the The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of the hit comedy.
Bernard (Joshua Rich), a rich playboy who sports loud plaid pants, has three adorable “stews” on a string. He keeps them from running into each other with the aid of his trusty international flight timetable and his ditzy maid Bertha (Margaret Bush), whose job it is to rotate out their photos in anticipation of their arrival. When Bernard’s old schoolmate Robert (Patrick M. Doneghy) arrives from Wisconsin, the playboy convinces his friend that having three fiancées at the same time is the height of bachelor life.
Gretchen (Jennifer Patton) works for Lufthansa, Gabriela (Gabriela Coro) for Alitalia and Gloria (Kathleen Doyle) for American Airlines and never the three shall meet — at least that’s Bernard’s plan.
In the beginning, all goes smoothly. The women come and go according to their rigid flight schedules. But as advances are made in aviation and airplanes get faster, Bernard’s ride gets bumpy as the women’s layovers coincide. John Downing and Bill Glikbarg’s cleverly designed six-door set with a charming terrace looking out over the lights of Paris portends the shenanigans to come.
Meanwhile, the beleaguered Bertha, who has perfected the art of the stink eye — “This is no life for a maid!” she howls — must keep up the charade with a constant change of cuisine (frankfurters and sauerkraut for Gretchen, for example) to appease the revolving door of Bernard’s paramours.
The awards for most notable performances go to Patrick M. Doneghy, who is absolutely superb as Robert and whose exquisite comic timing and zany mugging make this farce a total hoot; Patton as the feisty fräulein; and Coro as the fiery signorina. And a special kudos goes to director Roland Branford Gomez for putting together a rollicking romp.
“Boeing Boeing” runs through May 24 at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St. For tickets and information call the box office at 703-683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com.