Review: Boeing Boeing (Hart House Theatre)

Brandon Gillespie stars in Boeing Boeing at Hart House Theatre, Feb. 26-March 5, 2016 in Toronto, ON>

Hart House Theatre’s Classic Farce Soars

Boeing Boeing at Hart House Theatre is one heck of a non-stop , roller coaster of a farce. Written originally in French by Marc Camoletti, it was translated into English by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans. The version presented tonight was more current to the time, according to director Cory Doran, with a more palatable male/female dynamic then the original script would have had.

I absolutely love a good farce and this play definitely has all the elements that set it up for a great evening of hijinks. Bernard, “a swinging bachelor”, is engaged to three different stewardesses who never find out about each other thanks to the help of his faithful maid, Berthe. But when Bernard’s friend Robert arrives in town, things get out of whack and that’s when all the juicy stuff happens. Bernard’s once perfectly orchestrated timetable to keep each fiancée away from each other begins to falter, and they all end up in the same place at the same time. 

Perhaps my favorite character of the night, with her husky voice and commanding presence, was the French maid Berthe, played by Jill McMillan. From the moment she entered the room, she had my attention. With her impeccable comedic timing and complete embodiment of the slightly jilted, overworked and highly stressed Berthe, McMillan was a complete scene stealer for me throughout.

The dynamic between McMillan and Brandon Gillespie (Bernard) as employer/employee is also fun to watch. They are a great team with a very volatile but humorous relationship. I thought Gillespie was a charming ringleader of chaos managing the different personalities around him with the flip of a smile or tilt of his head. It was the subtlety and calm we needed among the bevy of animated characters that surrounded him. He evolves, as the play progresses, into a frantic mess of stress and anxiety which has a big pay off because of its slow build.

Bernard’s friend Robert (played by Andrei Preda) is the perfectly nerdy contrast to Gillespie’s cool, calm, and self-assured Bernard. I thought Preda nailed it. He was the perfect sidekick with bumbling but loveable qualities that frustrate yet entertain at the same time. His agility and stamina as a performer are quite abundant as we watch him attempt to keep up with the complicated scenario he finds himself in. Starting as a somewhat meek and mild Wisconsin boy, he finds his footing more and more as the play progresses and his physical comedy really gets to shine. Some of my favorite scenes are with him and Berthe. They will have you in stitches.

The three stewardesses — played by Eliza Martin (Gloria), Katie Corbridge (Gabriella), and Shalyn McFaul (Gretchen) — were all so vastly different and full of their own series of quirks. Martin was fabulous as the feisty, tough talking Long Island girl who has a few surprises of her own. Corbridge, the sultry, classy and curvy Italian is simply luscious in her role enjoying every moment she has with her Bernard with a slight air of distrust in his fidelity. McFaul, as the busty, romantically-aggressive and sexually-suggestive German, was hilarious as she man-handled Robert with some excellent stage combat skills which really had the audience laughing. These girls were the colour that splashed onto the set with every entrance and exit they made.

Speaking of the set, I thought it was the perfect subtle backdrop for this very animated play. Set designer Brandon Kleiman did an excellent job at keeping the 1960’s style Parisian flat classy with clean lines. I loved how it was all one tone, really allowing the characters to be the eyeline and the gorgeously vibrant costumes, designed by Kathleen Black, to pop.

This play was so much fun to watch and I felt like I ran a marathon when it was done. I have to hand it to director Cory Doran for reining it all in. It couldn’t have been easy rehearsing such a technically difficult piece. At the talkback after the show, we even found out that some key elements of the set (the doors) were missing until late in their rehearsal process. There was some very slight evidence of that in terms of timing in the beginning of the show, but that easily got resolved as the show went on.

The packed audience was clearly enjoying themselves as did my guest and I. Watching a farce almost guarantees that you will be on a journey of things spiraling wildly out of control for your amusement. One man’s pain is another man’s pleasure, and as we watch Bernard encounter some serious close calls we delight in his struggle to keep it all together. The tight-knit cast work extremely well together, keeping the ship afloat. It was definitely a fun night of belly laughs and good times.

Details

  • Boeing Boeing runs February 26th-March 5, 2016 at Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle)
  • Show Times: Week 1: Fri. and Sat. at 8 pm, Week 2: Wed. to Sat. at 8 pm and Sat. at 2 pm
  • Postshow Talkbacks: Sat., Feb. 27 and Thurs., Mar. 3
    Preshow Artist Chat: Sat., Mar. 5 at 1 pm
  • Single Ticket Prices : Adults: $28, Seniors: $17, Students: $15
    $12 Student tickets every Wednesday night
  • To purchase tickets: Mon. to Fri., 11am to 5pm. By phone ( 416-978-8849 Press “0” to speak to a representative) , in person (UofTtix is located in the lower level of Hart House) or online
  • Hart House Theatre Box Office/Will Call, main theatre entrance. Opens 3 hours prior to every curtain and closes 30 minutes after curtain

Photo of Brandon Gillespie (Bernard) by Daniel DiMarco