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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

The Indiana Repertory Theatre hits its mid-season stride with Marc Camoletti’s classic 1962 farce, Boeing Boeing. The production draws together the considerable talents of director Laura Gordon, in her first foray with IRT, with a wonderfully matched corps of actors and actresses, resulting in a precisely staged and genuinely hilarious occasion.

Boeing Boeing, which ran for 7 years after its opening on London’s West End, is the story of a swinging 60s bachelor named Bernard who lives in an upscale Paris apartment which he shares with a French housekeeper, Berte, and his 3 air hostess fiancées – American Gloria, Italian Gabriella and German Gretchen. (Well, just reading that premise gives you the idea that mayhem is bound to ensue here, right?) A visit from an old school friend, Robert, gives Bernard the chance to tout what a wonderful arrangement it is to have a loving trio of rotating girlfriends who do not know the others exist. As you can imagine, things soon get complicated and, well, farcical!

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Chris Klopatek (Robert), Hillary Clemens (Gloria), and Matt Schwader (Bernard) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

Matt Schwader, returning to IRT after his 2015 Mitty Award winning stint as Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, is the perfect Bernard – handsome, self-assured and oh so ripe for his comeuppance. Schwader’s real-life spouse, Hillary Clemens, also returning from her engagement in Gatsby as Daisy Buchanan, enlivens Gloria, the rather self-centered American fiancée. Melisa Pereyra is a tender but fiery Gabriella, while Greta Wohlrabe gives a mix of innocence and dominance to her portrayal of Gretchen.

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Greta Wohlrabe (Gretchen) and Elizabeth Ledo (Berthe) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

Chris Klopatek plays the clumsily nebbish Robert with relish, and Elizabeth Ledo wins the audience’s hearts as the much put-upon housekeeper Berthe, savoring every last bit of her character’s grumbling nature.

In farce, exactness in blocking, pratfalls and reactions must be explicit and uninhibited. Aided by Rob Johansen’s clever ideas for movement and flow, the entire ensemble works through the play’s often harried activity with precision. Director Gordon has sharpened the action and reaction to a fine point, and the resulting comic turns by her cast are a great reward for the audience.

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On the set by Vicki Smith – Elizabeth Ledo (Berthe), Melisa Pereyra (Gabriella), Matt Schwader (Bernard), and Chris Klopatek (Robert) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

As usual with IRT productions, the technical aspects are eye-popping. Vicki Smith’s clean 60’s set, featuring a vibrant Calder mobile, is beautifully rendered. Mathew Lefebvre admits influence by the series Mad Men in his choices for costume design. He provides colorful and clean-lined fashions in his work here.

It is pleasing to have IRT at last embrace farces, with Boeing Boeing offered this season and Noises Off scheduled for next. The genre is perhaps the trickiest to pull off and many are the attempts that falter and fail. But IRT’s reputation for excellence is good reason to look forward to more of this type of comic show.

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Greta Wohlrabe (Greta), Chris Klopatek (Robert), Matt Schwader (Bernard), and Melisa Pereyra (Gabriella) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

Bottomline: Comedy is hard, especially the farce genre, but the tireless work of these players provides a rich entertainment full of belly laughs.

Boeing Boeing continues on IRT’s OneAmerica Mainstage through April 2. For more specific information on dates and show times visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/ or call 317.635.5252.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing
  • – Artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

 

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