Sara King, Tyler Bliss, Cami Glauser, & Joey Banigan. Photo: Derby Dinner Playhouse
By Marc Camoletti (Translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans)
Directed by Lee Buckholz
Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2020, by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
With their latest production, Derby Dinner is bringing back one of their hits from 8 years ago, with much of the same cast: the classic sixties sex farce Boeing Boeing. Once again it has provided me with the most fun I’ve had watching a play in years. Well acted, and directed with precision by Lee Buckholz, I was belly-laughing fifteen minutes in and didn’t get relief until after the final bows. It remains one of the funniest plays ever written.
Right when you first enter the theater you can tell you are in for something special just by taking in the sight of Ron Riall’s absolutely gorgeous set. Designed to represent a thoroughly “mod” swinger’s apartment circa 1969, it truly appears you have walked into a bachelor’s dream pad.
The story plays out like any given episode of Three’s Company. Young, handsome Bernard (Tyler Bliss, returning from the 2012 production) is living the life in his swanky Paris apartment, courting three different fiancés with the reluctant help of his put-upon housekeeper Berthe (Tina Jo Wallace, also a 2012 returnee) and by way of some ingenious planning: all three love interests are international flight attendants who never land in Paris at the same time. He reveals his scheming to his envious friend Robert (Blake Graham), who quickly wants in on the action. As the rules of farce dictate, over the course of one fateful day, all hell breaks loose when all three fiancés (Cami Glauser as American Gloria, Joey Banigan as Italian Gabriella, and Sara King [yet another 2012 alumnus!] as German Gretchen) come home in the same evening. Chaos, hilarity, and a lot of door slamming ensue.
The play is such a classic it has been revived countless times since its 1960 Paris, 1962 London, and 1965 Broadway debuts, and spawned no less than six film versions (one French, one American, one Malayalam, one Telugu, one Hindi, and one Kannada).
I have still never seen the 1965 film, arguably the most popular version, which starred Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis as Bernard and Robert, respectively, but I can’t imagine that Curtis and Lewis were any better in the roles than Bliss and Graham are here. Bliss takes Bernard from a rather unlikeable, buttoned-up, conceited, pretty boy at the top of the show to a completely lovable basket case by show’s end, showing a strong predilection for physical comedy that recalls Steve Martin at his best. Graham gives what is probably the show’s most endearing performance as Robert, creating a lovable schlub that almost takes the complete opposite course to Bernard, becoming a stronger and obviously more devious character as the play progresses. I think it is the casting of Graham that gives this current version the edge over the previous one; his performance is just that strong!
The show’s ladies are all well cast by strong actresses as well. Once again, Wallace’s Berthe brings to mind The Incredibles’ Edna Mode character with her mix of style and sass, also looking a lot like famous costume designer Edith Head. Glauser’s Gloria is a complete sex kitten just oozing raw appeal, while Banigan’s Gabriella strongly evokes Modern Family’s, Sophia Vergara. But once again, the show’s complete standout performance goes to King’s Gretchen. A stereotype if there ever was one, King gives the character her all, literally throwing her whole body into the larger than life character with nothing short of complete brilliance.
Just an incredible cast all around!
A special mention has to be made for Heather Paige Folsom’s staging of the curtain call, an energetic number almost as entertaining as the show that preceded it. Very well done.
This is a very welcome return for one of Derby Dinner’s best productions. Kudos to all involved, don’t miss it!
Starring Joey Banigan, Tyler Bliss, Cami Glauser, Blake Graham, Sara King, and Tina Jo Wallace.
January 8 – February 16, 2020
Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129
Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 12 years. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. In 2019 he launched Theatre Reprise with Jeremy Guitterez. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.