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Performing Arts

Lift off

Lyric takes to the skies with ‘Boeing Boeing,’ a comedy that initially idles on the Tarmac.

Larry Laneer April 6th, 2011

Boeing Boeing
7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday, through April 16
Lyric at the Plaza, 1725 N.W. 16th

How about a good word for the properties designer for a change? Lyric Theatre’s mildly entertaining, if tepid production of “Boeing Boeing” by Marc Camoletti is set in the early 1960s, so properties designer Elizabeth Rescinito has assembled a highly authentic collection of spot-on furniture — a sunburst clock, lava lamp and a spiffy retro telephone, among other objets d’art — that are a joy to behold on Chris Domanski’s set design. This attention to detail makes a difference and is greatly appreciated.

In “Boeing Boeing,” Bernard (Matthew Montelongo), a Parisian architect with a fancy apartment, maintains three “fiancées,” who are air hostesses, and he coordinates their layover stays at his flat with their airlines’ timetables. He glowingly explains the mathematical precision of the arrangement to his friend, Robert (the fine Matthew Alvin Brown).

Bernard’s triplicate trysts work fine until Boeing’s new airliners with faster jet engines threaten to ditch the schedules and land all three women in Paris at the same time.

The three stewardesses are as varied as their bright, primary-color uniforms, designed by Jeffrey Meek. TWA’s Gloria (Kristy Cates) is the ditzy American; Alitalia’s Gabriella (Kristi Forsch) is the jealous Italian; Lufthansa’s Gretchen (the terrific Lexi Windsor) is the romantic German.

In a rare, but welcome acting appearance, the stage director and choreographer Lyn Cramer plays Bernard’s exasperated maid and aide-de-camp.

If all this sounds vaguely familiar, you may have seen the 1965 movie version with Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. Brown’s performance, in an argyle sweater and horn-rimmed glasses, seems Lewis-esque at times.

“Boeing Boeing” is one of those plays that spends most of the first act in exposition. Bernard has to explain his romantic relationships to Robert, and then, each fiancée has to be introduced and the character established.

The production is like a dirigible in the jet age: Director Michael Baron finally gets this crate off the ground, but for a while there, one wonders if it will make it. The show doesn’t crash and burn, but it doesn’t soar, either.

“Boeing Boeing” takes place just before the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Today, it seems downright quaint. A little innocent kissing between Gretchen and Robert is about as hot as it gets.

The production has its moments.

Windsor’s performance as the heelclicking German Gretchen enlivens the show. Her unintentional, but irrepressible Nazi salute recalls Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove. Brown’s ability to play physical comedy raises the show’s energy level, especially in his scenes with Windsor. Brown’s work in musicals and comedies has always been outstanding; it would be interesting to see him in a drama. It’s great to see Lyric presenting a variety of shows at the excellent Plaza Theatre, acoustically second to no other theater in the city. The company is stretching artistically and offering theatergoers a greater variety of shows in contrast to glitzy musicals.

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