Be There When Lightning Strikes

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LIGHTNING REVIEW: Turbulence works in 'Boeing Boeing'

Scott Treadway, as Robert in 'Boeing Boeing,' tries to mend a mess. Scott Treadway, as Robert in 'Boeing Boeing,' tries to mend a mess.

Carried skyward by a refreshing mix of familiar faces and newcomers, "Boeing Boeing" brightens the stage at Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown even as the Mainstage goes dark in the run-up to "Miss Saigon."

 


In her director's notes, Amy Jones recalls "Boeing Boeing" as her first acting role at the Playhouse in 1998. The cast will take local patrons back that far, too. The comedy stars Charlie McIver, Scott Treadway, Lisa K. Bryant and Paige Posey, who have combined experience in a couple hundred shows on the Rock; plus Catherine LaFrere, who debuts in this show, and Beth Kuhn, who performed in the Music of Abba tribute and "Nunsense" at the Playhouse Downtown.
McIver is Bernard, a usually poised bachelor who tends a very well-organized airline schedule that enables him to juggle relationships with three beautiful stewardesses — an American, Italian and German — at his Paris apartment. Bernard is boasting to his old friend Robert, played by Treadway, about how well this works when the wheels start coming off.
When the airline schedules go awry, Bernard's perfectly executed romantic liaisons are threatening to blow up. Treadway is caught in the middle of his tree-timing friend's deception, along with Bernard's housekeeper, Berthe (Paige Posey), who grows increasingly exasperated trying to keep the right girlfriend's picture in the frame.
All three girlfriends end up in town at the same time, and what follows, especially in the last 45 minutes of the first act, is a fast-paced well-choreographed cacophony of slamming doors, panicked improvisations and near-misses.
The set by Dennis Maulden is a clean and modern mix that represents the dining room, sitting room and study, with four doors at the back of the stage the key to the ongoing comic routine.
As Robert, Treadway transforms from a dumbfounded Midwesterner to an increasingly creative participant in the coverup.
Bryant and LeFrere are both likable as two-thirds of Bernard's high-flying collection but Kuhn steals the show with her over-the-top vocal and physical performance as Gretchen, the hot German flight attendant in an orange dress. From the start, when she first "meets" Robert by mistaking him for Bernard and treating him to a long deep kiss, we get the hint that Gretchen has a spark for the innocent from Wisconsin. Gretchen is stern and vulnerable at the same time, and we can see Robert falling for her.
Robert, meanwhile, gets into the spirit of the game, helping Bernard hide and otherwise keep apart all three girlfriends.
Slapstick bits work at a breakneck pace. All six actors carry out the quick lines and challenging physical comedy with energetic zeal, never missing a beat. We can't keep our eyes off the multi-car crash playing out in front of us. We want to see who ends up with whom, and whether anyone ends up in the hospital. A happy resolution is possible because of a satisfying plot twist involving Gloria, the New York stewardess.
As Berthe the housekeeper says at the end of the Act I, "Drink up. It's going to be a bumpy ride." It is a bumpy ride — like one on the carnival midway. It has you laughing all the way.