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One shady bachelor

Instead of flying, Boeing Boeing goes low

Tacoma Little Theatre features Boeing Boeing. Photo courtesy Tacoma Little Theatre

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When I was a child, my dad showed me a Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis vehicle called Boeing Boeing. The manic comedy was based on a well-liked play by Marc Camoletti, and it featured the very farce-friendly concept of a bachelor in France juggling three girlfriends, who are conveniently unaware of each other due to their incompatible schedules as flight attendants. Naturally, when I heard that Tacoma Little Theatre would be putting up Boeing Boeing, I leapt at the chance to see it.

Greg Lucas stars as Bernard (the Tony Curtis role), a smug dude who seems to have everything about love figured out. An old school friend, Robert (Robert Alan Barnett, delightfully frazzled in the role that Jerry Lewis brought to the screen), shows up at his doorstep, and proceeds to do everything in his power to help keep up Bernard's ruse.

Things get uncomfortable when Robert, who was initially the audience surrogate, gets increasingly unsympathetic and gross - including an extended set-piece where he chases one of the girlfriends around the apartment, trying to extort a kiss out of her. It's a testament to Barnett's charm that this scene doesn't completely derail the play.

Ana Bury, Holly Rose and Jana Gueck - as the American, Italian and German flight attendants, respectively - are admirably game and fall quite nicely into the pitter-patter rhythm of farce, though their accents sway in and out of believability. Barnett steals scene after scene. Looking a little bit like the great character actor Phil Silvers, Barnett seems like he actually could have thrived around the time of Boeing Boeing's initial run. As Bernard, Greg Lucas is a bit more stiff than the material requires, but Brynne Garman does well in the thankless role of the ever put-upon housekeeper, Berthe.

The set design, though, is wonderful, and the timing (essential for farce) is as good as can be. These actors spend a good chunk of the play absolutely frantic, darting in and out of doors just trying to get through one night where all three women converge on Paris and threaten Bernard's delicately balanced lifestyle. If more of the jokes had landed, that might have mitigated my problems with the play, but it can't be said that the actors didn't give it their all.

Boeing Boeing, Tacoma Little Theatre, Thurs-Sun, Sept. 18-Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m., Fri-Sat; Noon, Sunday, 210 North I St. Tacoma 253.272.2281

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