It has been said that England and America are two countries separated by a common language. The same could be said for our senses of humor (or humour) as well. Though the British are known for their dry wit, they are also known for outrageous slapstick -- John Cleese and his Pythonites come immediately to mind. And Americans love it all.
Given our passion for most things British, one would think that their latest comic export, "Boeing Boeing," would be an in-flight hit, especially since it stars the most wonderful American comedian, Christine Baranski, the dry-wit American man of TV's "West Wing," Bradley Whitford, and the best American slapstick comedian, Mark Rylance. But from the first scene on, it is painfully clear that "Boeing Boeing" has crash-landed instead.
The curtain is up when the audience arrives at the theater, and Ron Howell's gorgeous set of a high-ceilinged Parisian apartment with seven doors seems to have such promise -- just the thought of a new French farce is enough to make one's imagination launch into flights of dreamy fancy. But alas, the fun is not merely delayed, it is cancelled.
In brief, "Boeing Boeing" is about Bernard, a commitment-phobic man who is "engaged" to three beautiful stewardesses at the same time, and all he has to do to make this charade work is ensure they never meet. Easy, Bernard explains. His strategy is to woo women who fly for different airlines and have different flight schedules. And the much put-upon maid, wasting the talents of Baranski, coordinates it all.
When Bernard's long-lost friend, Robert, arrives unexpectedly after 18 years and nine months (according to Robert), explaining he's lonely and would love to marry, Bernard invites him to move in and lets him in on the little scheme. For awhile, all goes well, Robert is ecstatic at meeting these beautiful birds, and then...
This is where all the turbulence begins. One stew's flight is turned back because of weather, another arrives earlier than planned, and a third is already ensconced in Bernard's apartment. There is chaos, lots of screaming, rolling on the floor, and door slamming, but only Rylance's physical comedy gets the laughs.
Now, as professional reviewers, we all in the trade try hard to avoid scatological adjectives and pedestrian clichï¿½s when discussing a play, but sadly, in this case, it is necessary to succumb to vulgar truth-telling so that you may be fairly forewarned: "Boeing Boeing" is stupid stupid. Not even an air traffic controller can save it.
Avoid "Boeing Boeing" which, it is hoped, will be going going away soon.
Barbara Mehlman & Geri Manus
"Like Wilderï¿½s masterpiece this production levitates low burlesque into high comedy. In a generous act of alchemy Mr. Warchus and company have distilled pure pleasure from an impure source."
New York Times
"It's nothing but blue skies and mile-high hilarity at "Boeing-Boeing." & "This production from London is a breath of fresh laughing gas."
New York Daily News
"As repetitious and as tedious as a flea circus."
New York Post
"The door-slamming, furniture-jumping, fall-on-the-floor doings of farcical comedy are not to all tastes, of course, so anyone disliking this theatrical genre can skip "Boeing-Boeing." Everybody else better tape their ribs to prevent fractures from laughing so furiously at the madness galloping across the stage."
"Broadway has been blessed with an inordinate number of tours de force by male funnymen this season: In addition to Mr. Butz (Is He Dead?) there's Nathan Lane in "November" and Charles Edwards in "The 39 Steps." But while all four of these performers outshine their material, Mr. Rylance shines the brightest ï¿½ and not just because of the relative dimness of his surroundings. " & "Gold is gold, and if slogging through the likes of "Boeing-Boeing" is what it takes to mine it, so be it. Isn't making the best out of untenable circumstances what farce is all about?
"Seventy minutes had passed before his production finally lifted off with anything resembling comic energy. Then the first-act curtain fell and the tedious spring-winding started up all over again."
"If you want to laugh for roughly two hours and 35 minutes, hustle over to Broadway's Longacre Theatre to see a period farce called "Boeing-Boeing." I did something I hadn't done in a theater for at least a year. I laughed, I really laughed. And its laughs sneak up on you, in the way only genuine laughs can." & "It's a classic Broadway cure for whatever may ail you."
Jacques Le Sourd
"The actors, huffing and puffing and door-slamming their way through the long evening, give it their all, and they get their share of laughs. But the show, directed by Matthew Warchus, seemed as tedious as it was amusing."
"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." & "It vanished after only 23 performances on Broadway in 1965...But if the paroxysms of laughter gripping the Longacre audience offer any gauge, this incarnation should stick around considerably longer.