Monday, May 05, 2008

Did Boeing-Boeing Have Critics Flying High?

Did Boeing-Boeing Have Critics Flying High?

Yesterday, the first Broadway revival of the sixties sex farce Boeing-Boeing opened at the Longacre Theatre. Helmed by Matthew Warchus, the play was written by Marc Camoletti and translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans. The show stars Christine Baranski, Bradley Whitford, Gina Gershon and Mark Rylance.

Most critics were flying high in their praise of the show.

Offering that the revival "soars right out of its time zone and into some unpolluted stratosphere of classic physical comedy," The New York Times' Ben Brantley is first in line for take-off: "Boeing Boeing, it turns out, has great bones.... It allows the cast members to cut loose like preschoolers on the playground of their dreams. And like fond parents, we can enjoy their shenanigans while knowing that the slides and swing sets are too well-made for anyone to get seriously hurt. Their performances are among the most one-dimensional and stereotyped that have ever shown up on a Broadway stage -- and that’s a large part of their roaring success.... At the performance I saw, the ensemble began a tad shakily, and I wondered if I had been a fool to enjoy the play as much as I did when I saw it in London last year. But as the show progressed, everyone shed self-consciousness and found a shared rhythm. The second act was unconditional bliss."

Concluding that "nothing sullies the enjoyment of Warchus' sprightly production or of the play's unexpected ingenuity," Variety's David Rooney also soars in his review: "It could have been a tired dollop of '60s camp in the wrong hands, but director Matthew Warchus and his sparkling cast fine-tune this fluffy French farce with clockwork precision, and the result is a riot.... [W]hile it usually requires more verbal complexity than physical dexterity to sustain this kind of featherweight comedy, Warchus and the ensemble do a remarkable job of keeping things at cruise speed for 2½ hours with no discernable lags.... [W]hile none of the women are slouches, the master of physical comedy here is Rylance, the one holdover from the production's London cast.... With inexhaustible inventiveness, Rylance gives shape to Robert's sly blossoming from a meek, unsophisticated bystander into a man eager to remedy his romantic inexperience and not shy about partaking of his friend's female smorgasbord."

Lauding that "it's nothing but blue skies and mile-high hilarity," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News gives this ticket four out of five stars: "At certain points, the comedy becomes very broad, almost ridiculous. But it's such a blast, you don't care. Credit goes to director Matthew Warchus, whose jet-propelled production is filled with fantastic performances. Chief among them is one by Mark Rylance, who played the frazzled and lovable Robert in London. In his Broadway debut, he creates one of the funniest characters in memory.... Bradley Whitford makes a dashing and dexterous playboy who seems to have taken the "American in Paris" thing to heart.... As the exasperated maid, seasoned joker Christine Baranski lays on the French accent thicker than a sauce Béarnaise -- and it works."

Gushing that "gold is gold, and if slogging through the likes of Boeing-Boeing" is what it takes to mine it, so be it," Eric Grode of The New York Sun offers a review that's positivey upright and in a locked position: "Matthew Warchus and his rubber-limbed sextet of actors have somehow wrenched Marc Camoletti's musty effort out from its own 747-size languors. And once again, the salvage operation is led by a superb comic performance. This time it's Mark Rylance, taking a decided step away from his renowned Shakespearean diet ... and creating a staggeringly funny portrait of lust-deranged masculinity.... The usually dependable Ms. Baranski trips up repeatedly on her impenetrable French accent but handles Berthe's silent passages neatly, with a deceptively casual face-off between her and Robert serving as a giddy respite amid the slamming doors and flying bodies. Mr. Whitford, by comparison, starts out uncomfortably broad and has nowhere to go as the tension builds."

Fessing up that "I hate to be a buzz kill.... [A]nd I don't have a clue to explain the genuine mirth around me," Newsday's Linda Winer sounds as if the show lost her luggage: "Why the reception appears to be different now, I don't dare to analyze. Despite a dreamy hoot of a performance by Mark Rylance ... the director's comic philosophy is rooted in the bellowing, jumping around, hitting-with-a-beanbag-chair school of humor.... Please don't get me wrong. My problems is not prissy feminism, a modern distortion of feminism's joy and strength. Sure, women are plugged into the mechanics of the plot as if they were widgets in gumball-colored, miniskirted airline uniforms. But the women ... are at at least unpredictable. Warchus ... lets the women be sexual thugs-blowup dolls who are also action figures. The physical businesses -- the phony trembling fits, the floor rolling and the big leggy strides across the stage -- culminate, if that's the verb, with special 'curtain-call choreography' by Kathleen Marshall. Big strides for the theater, perhaps, are for another day."

Declaring that Boeing-Boeing "crash landed," New York Post' s Clive Barnes sounds as if he boarded the wrong flight in his one-star review: "When I saw this revival, staged by Matthew Warchus and designed by Rob Howell, in London last summer, I thought it was terrible, but Rylance had already left the cast, and I was assured by some that he had made a terrific difference. He does make a terrific difference. And it's still terrible -- as repetitious and as tedious as a flea circus.... But the whole cast, particularly the agile Whitford and a beautifully acidulated Baranski, as the game but aging French maid, prove to be accomplished farceurs."

With plenty of raves all around, this Boeing-Boeing looks like it can settle in for a reasonably long, comfortable flight on the Great White Way. I'll be taking in a performance this week and will provide my own SOB Review shortly thereafter.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Opening: Boeing-Boeing Lands On Great White Way (May 4, 2008)
Is It Just Me, Or... (Part III) (January 22, 2008)
Boeing-Boeing To Touch Down On Great White Way (September 17, 2007)
Was De La Tour's Latest A Tour De Force With Critics? (February 17, 2007)
London's Boeing-Boeing Flies Into Opening Night (February 15, 2007)

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At 05 May, 2008, Anonymous broadwayblogger said...

Do you know if a U.S. tour is in this show's future?

At 05 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Broadwayblogger, I'm not hearing any word of that just yet, but I have to believe that given the mostly rave reviews, it would be a natural for a tour. I'll keep you posted if I hear anything.

At 05 May, 2008, Anonymous Chris Caggiano said...


I'm seeing Boeing-Boeing Saturday night. How 'bout you?

At 06 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Chris, I'll be there Friday evening. If anyone else is going to be there, look for my eyes and say hi!


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