The third offering of the summer season at The Princeton Summer Theater is a French farce. Written in the early 1960s by Marc Camoletti, it has had a decidedly checkered career. First staged in 1962 in London, it was a huge hit and ran for seven years. According to Guinness at the time, it was judged to be the most performed French play throughout the world. On the other hand, a Broadway production in 1965 ran only 23 performances and lost everything.
Not, one would think, much of a threat to Moliere or Feydeau.
But a 2008 makeover has been far more successful. In the words of one critic, Camoletti’s farce has been “sexed up.” The plot involves a bachelor living in a fancy Paris apartment who manages to romance three stewardesses at the same time, from different airlines, by judicious use of airline schedules and extraordinary planning. He begins to have problems as more powerful motors are installed on the planes thereby shortening travel times.
Now add a school chum from the Midwest who happens to drop in (after 18 years) and a sharp-tongued housekeeper and you have all of the hard-working cast of six.
The 2008 redo changed the girls’ names from all starting with the letter “J,” to all beginning with the letter “G.” Quite naturally, therefore, this version is simply known as the “G” version. Gloria flies for TWA and is American. Gabriella is Italian and has the airline bag to prove it. Gretchen is German, flies for Lufthansa and has both the bag and the body stance to prove it. This version is wilder, louder and, yes, funnier
The cast for this production is perfection itself. And director Julia Bumke clearly has allowed them full sway physically as well as vocally. Among other talents, director Bumke plays the French horn in the Princeton University orchestra and did so in when the group opened the season with “A Little Night Music.” Evan Thompson, who played the oh-so-suave British husband in “Gaslight,” plays Bernard, the bachelor whose life rapidly goes from contentment to chaos as the new engines speed up the girls’ arrivals and departures.
Sarah Paton, who was so distraught just a couple of weeks ago as the tortured wife, plays a playful sexpot, not above switching partners if a better offer comes along. Miyuki Miyagi has a delicious time playing the volatile Italian Gabriella, trying desperately to cling to a dream. And Ariel Siebert finds just the proper mixture of flirt and bombast as Gretchen, the German fraulein.
Once again, Maeve Brady comes close to stealing the evening as Berthe, the housekeeper who apparently can cook in three languages and always has her eye on the clock and the calendar. She gets competition from Daniel Rattner as the school chum, bringing with him his midwest restrictions, but a wide-open willingness ton the tricks of a more interesting life style.
There ought to be hazardous pay for the performers; characters make pratfalls look easy and the audience roars in obvious approval. The five doors on stage open and shut in a flash. Credit stage designer Jeffrey vanVelson with a winner. As a matter of fact, credit director Bumke and the entire cast — winners.
“Boeing, Boeing,” Hamilton Murray Theater, Princeton University campus. Through Sunday, July 29. $25. Visit www.princetonsummertheater.org or call 609-258-7062.