Not unlike air-travel during the holidays, the lead up to my arrival at Boeing, Boeing was quite the adventure. While parking was a challenge to begin with (there was a wedding in addition to the opening night crowd at the community center), it was made even more so when my clutch seized up while in the process of searching for parking. With just 14 minutes to find help pushing and a legal space with which to push my very dead car into, it felt a bit farcical before the curtain even went up as I ran in heels to make it to my seat before the door closed. In the end it all worked out just fine, as most comedies do, and while admittedly I was more than a bit frazzled for the first bit of the show, this Palo Alto Players production proved an eventual calming and distracting antidote for reality.
Boeing, Boeing is your typical farce in the sense that it starts off “normal” and whips up into a crazy fervor by the end. While the piece as a whole told an amusing enough story, I personally felt the pacing of the script was very slow and (I know how ironic it is for *me* to say such a thing)…wordy. It took the entire first act to actually introduce each of the characters and set up the plot which was wholly unnecessary. This was honestly a drag and I already felt anxious for more activity, humor and action by intermission. By comparison the second act seemed to skip some steps and go from “set up situation” straight to “OUT OF CONTROL” mode. Despite being set up, some of the reactions seemed too big when contrasted to the “normal” beginning. I have to place a lot of that blame on the writing, I think.
Aside from the almost too serious and overly long 1st act, a plot that is predominantly predictable by nature, gives the cast and crew an additional layer of challenge to work with. We kind of “know” what is going to happen, so the pay-off has to be EVEN better than our expectation. In some cases this really worked (our “German” was hilarious and there were some genuine exchanges between our male leads that gelled superbly) and in others cases I wasn’t feeling it at all.
What I was feeling were the costumes. GREAT overall look and variation for the women especially and they worked them as if they were in fact uniforms they spent time in. It’s hard to find good wigs and there were good wigs going on in the show. Lights, set, sounds, props all added to the ambiance, which I feel is a consistent strength across productions at Palo Alto Players.
One of the things you have to just ignore is the fact that while various things are going on, all the yelling and over-the -topness of the farce part isn’t going to be overheard. Obviously the back of the house has to hear the lines, but those that might be right on the other side of a door or in the hallway, are somehow not going to take notice of these outrageous outbursts.
Also, for the sake of your enjoyment, do not over analyze (as clearly, I was) the time that people are IN those other rooms in relation to what they are supposed to be doing. We know the device is for X amount to happen while others are out of the room, but again, the script goes overboard with dialogue that is excessive and in doing so does a disservice to a cast that is clearly talented. It may seem a bit obvious, but given my experience, it bears reminding, there is significant suspension of belief that needs to occur to fully enjoy this show. Do that and you’re likely to really enjoy this piece.
Overall, while I think the cast and production crew were all committed to this piece and on the same page, this script needed an editor like my car needed a new clutch. The actors were amusing, each having strong moments throughout, but this script had the cast and director working overtime to keep the momentum going and make up for the parts that weren’t well written/paced. For me that lacking script took a bit too much away from the performance. 3 1/2 jewels out of 5 in the review tiara, for a show with actors attempting to turn comic straw into comic gold, resulting in a mixed bag of shining moments and leftover straw. Boeing, Boeing plays through June 30th at the Lucie Stern Center Theater in Palo Alto.