A few years back, Stanford’ s Charles Junkerman remarked on Oscar Wilde’s incessant chatter. “Listening is a rare event,” Junkerman noted, as “characters are always thinking about what they will say next. The verbal music just flows, with nary the briefest of pauses.” Wilde-the-stylist is having way too much fun, and we the audience, can hardly object.
Swap Wilde’s 1890’s London for a swinging ‘60’s fantasy, keep the intensely style-conscious dialogue, quick and self-reflexive, and you could have something like Boeing Boeing, which just opened at San Jose Stage. Both share a similar quality of dialogue, as bright and zingy as the colors on set. While this does not rise to anything like Wilde, the dialogue, at once reckless, but carefully calibrated, goes for similar effect.
… this particular production is the one you want to see.
Frozen in a pre-internet era when nailing a stew was a cultural significator, the bright nimbleness can be pretty vacant, and indeed, five minutes of bedroom swapping could have been easily cut. However, this remotely distinct ancestry of of Wilde is shagadelic, indeed.
Part of the tight fast-paced brilliance, sold here in a Mary Quant vision of primary colors and angular geometries, can be attributed to Kenneth Kelleher’s tight stage direction and the cast’s quick comic timing.
Joshua Hollister, as swinging playboy Bernard, is “engaged” to three stewardesses, an American (Courtney Hatcher), German (Allison F. Rich), and Italian (Halsey Varady). Given that his fiancés work for three different airlines, on three different schedules, he’s confident he can pull it off.
His friend Robert (Michael Barrett Austin), and his housekeeper Berthe (Celia Maurice), know better.
A kind of fast-paced verbal music, just like that mentioned by Junkerman, ensues, punctuated with intermittent shrieks, door slams, near misses, and awkward recoveries, as the characters dodge the inevitable.
Boeing Boeing has been produced multiple times around the Bay Area over the past decade, including a production at the Center REP, reviewed here. In fact, this script by Marc Camoletti, translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans, holds a Guinness Book record for most produced French play. That said, this particular production is the one you want to see.
Go boing boing (but not booing booing) to Boeing Boeing, at the San Jose Stage through May 1.
Photo credit: Dave Lepori